George Aiken without the intellectual flair

Senator George Aiken once said we should leave Vietnam and declare victory. Lacking Aiken’s audacity, Senator Chuck Hagel urges that we leave Iraq and declare a draw.
Hagel may not be the biggest fool in the Senate, but after reading his piece in today’s Washington Post I’m at a loss to identify a bigger one. Hagel insists that “there will be no victory or defeat for the United States in Iraq.” But if the U.S. leaves Iraq and, with our soldiers gone, al Qaeda establishes a base for terrorist operations, that sure sounds like defeat. And if our forced exit, to which Hagel will have contributed, becomes a huge morale victory and recruiting tool for terrorists, as less dramatic past U.S. exits have, surely that would be a defeat too.
Hagel never engages these issues. Instead, he touts the fact that Iraq and Syria have restored diplomatic relations, calling this (if I’m reading his garbled prose correctly) part of “the most encouraging set of actions for the Middle East in years.” Why a Syrian-Iraqi alliance would be so encouraging, the Senator never explains. If Syria becomes more influential in Iraq following a U.S. exit, that would be further evidence of defeat.
Hagel indulges in fantasy when he writes, “until we are able to lead a renewal of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, mindless destruction and slaughter will continue in Lebanon, Israel and across the Middle East.” Even Hagel can’t believe that the sectarian violence in Iraq has anything to do with the absence of a peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. And, while Hagel may not know it, much destruction and slaughter occurred during the years in which the so-called peace process took place. This was because the Palestinians viewed violence against Israel as a way to coerce Israel into agreeing to demands during that process. And why not, when simple-minded politicians like Hagel promise us a stable Middle East if only Israel will reach an agreement (any agreement) with the Palestinians?
Palestinian violence against Israel stopped because Israel forgot about the peace process and launched debilitating attacks against Palestinian terrorists. Similarly, our focus in Iraq should be on attacking al Qaeda and other specifically anti-American interests in that country. It should not be on orchestrating our own defeat and refusing to call it that.

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