There has been a whole lot of buzz in the past weeks about Howard Dean's recent comment that he believes that while the war in Iraq was grossly unjustified, a US pullout right now would be also a mistake. "Now that we're there, we can't get out" said the DNC Chairman.
I want to stress that Howard Dean didn't all of a sudden come up with this position. Throughout his presidential campaign, he has said the exact same thing. He has always maintained that pulling out American troops without either a significant international troop presence or self sufficient Iraqi forces would be tantamount to leaving the Iraqi people in the face of a civil war, which in his judgment would make Iraq and the greater middle east an even grater danger to the United States than it is now. So let's track Dean's position: It was wrong to go in because Iraq wasn't a threat to US safety, that by going in, Bush and Co. have created what is significant security challenge to the US security, that the aforementioned challenge - though created by ourselves - is now here and must be confronted, and that pulling out without International presence or Iraqi self sufficiency will further that security threat in addition to leaving a chaotic civil war in Iraq. This has, and I repeat, always Howard Dean's position on Iraq. He mentioned late in the presidential campaign season that as someone who opposed the war in Iraq, it was (ironically, somewhat) his concern that the US is going to hurry up and pull troops out too quickly. So those who are freshly accusing Dr. Dean of "selling out the anti-war movement", think again. Howard Dean was never the candidate of the rabid anti-war (not just anti-Iraq war but anti-all war) movement, nor has he ever claimed anything different than what he is saying now. His recent statement is a reiteration of his convictions and beliefs, not something he is doing because he is somehow caving into the pro-war faction of the party.
Now that that's out of the way, why is Howard Dean right? I think the first part of his position, that it was wrong to go into Iraq because Iraq was not in fact a security threat to the United States, has been proven over and over and over again. The controversy is around the fact that he believs we can't pull out US troops right now. The fact is, by going in cowboy style, Bush and his cronies have created a serious security danger to the United States. Iraq wasn't a mingling place for terrorists before, but it is now. If we leave now, not only will Iraq disintegrate into chaos of the worst kind, it will also turn into a safe haven for the likes of Al Queda. These are people that have shown the willingness, resourcefulness, and the ability to strike inside the United States. The security danger to the United States that comes from Iraq turning into a safe haven for them is imminent, grave and dire. That threat will be unimaginably greater than the threat terrorists pose to us in Iraq now. This, in a nutshell, is why we can't get out, even though we'd like to. Yes, George Bush's policies increase that danger every day by not seeking an international solution, but you have to realize that Howard Dean is not advocating Bush's policies in Iraq currently. He is simply saying that we can't get out in a vacuum. When he says that he hopes the President's policies are successful, he of course means that forming a democratic, peaceful Iraq capable of taking care of its own defense, law, and order.
Then there is the consideration of what will happen to ordinary Iraqis if we pull out in a vacuum. When it inevitably disintegrates into civil war, and is turned into another Afghanistan where terrorist and war lord factions control parts of the country, what will the lives of ordinary Iraqis be like? Of course you can argue that it isn't much better now, but a pullout will serve as not just a catalyst of deterioration, but also as a symbol that America does not keep her promise. Then when the going gets rough, we simply wimp out. No, I don't think so. We broke it, we are going to have to fix it. Pulling out right now without significant international peacekeeping forces (a significant portion of which also must be US troops) will simply make us go back on our word. As bad as Iraq is now, it will be much worse if that happened. Combine this with the national security implications to the United States, and you have your answer as to why Howard Dean said what he said.
I am sorry to say that some of the same people who are advocating a pullout right away will be the first to come right back around and yell about how we left the Iraqi people in front of the lion's cave when Iraq does fall apart.
Also, I urge my friends in the anti-war community to keep some faith on Gov. Dean. He does, after all, keep turning out to be right on everything. He was right when he said going to Iraq would create a security danger where there existed none; he was right when he said the capture of Saddam Hussain did not make us any safer - even though everyone, including other Democratic candidates, called him crazy because he told the truth, and he was right when he said that you can't beat Bush with a Bush-lite. Give him the benefit of the doubt, if you will do nothing else. We should be channeling our energy into pushing hard to bring changes to Iraq policy in terms of international engagement, building a peace policy long term and civic engagement, instead of making calls to pull-out right away.