The Newest Talking Point?

Twice today I have heard a variation of the following: “no war has ever been won by withdrawing.” It was used by a commenter at OTB and by Fred Barnes on Special Report with Brit Hume this evening. It has the feel of new political catch phrase.

While this phrase may well be true, it strikes me as simplistic reasoning, as if we are poised for victory in Iraq and a withdrawal would ruin that.

Now, let me be clear: I am wholly uncertain at this time as to whether withdrawal in the short (or medium) term is the appropriate policy. However, I am certain of one thing: victory is not just around the corner. We are not at a stage where there choice is victory or defeat, we are at the stage where we are managing a failed policy. Recognizing and accepting this is rather important if proper decisions are to be made going forward.

And I would note: the likelihood of a swift and immediate withdrawal strikes me as highly unlikely, regardless of whatever rhetoric may be flying out there.

Even if one believes that that is exactly what the Democrats want to do, they do not have the power to make it happen at the moment.

[Cross-posted at PoliBlog]

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    Nobody ever said it was going to be easy, or short.
    The question, however, it is; do we now take the easy way, or do we do what’s right?

  2. Actually, I think that a major questions at this point is what is the right thing to do at the moment? I think that that is very much up in the air.

  3. Bithead says:

    As for Fred, good for him. He’s apparently been reading what I wrote last June:

    The fact of the matter is that Martha doesn’t care about the logistics. Doesn’t care about the loss of honor. Doesn’t care that we’d be snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, as his party urged that we do in Vietnam. (You do know, don’t you that the people now in power in Vietnam say that they were very close and the to throwing in the towel as of the point we left there?… history, seemingly is trying to repeat itself. Apparently, Murtha’s not learned about the historic cut and run in Vietnam, arranged by the Left.)

    And Vietnam points up something; There’s no war in history that has been won by withdrawal. None. Indeed, history shows us clearly that is the surest path to defeat.

    But don’t tell Murtha he doesn’t support the troops. And certainly, don’t question his patriotism.

    Any questions, class?

  4. Cernig says:

    Actually, history is replete with situations where withdrawing from a less-than-ideal battlefield allowed the war as a whole to be won later. The retreat to Moscow and the fleeing of Dunkirk, both from WW2, are two particularly relevant examples. In both cases, untenable battlefields were given up so that resources could be redirected, new allies engaged and the war as a whole won.

    Those are both cases where such a withdrawal was forced, but the deliberate retreat to lead your enemy into a trap has an equally long history.

    However, the contrary, “no war was ever won by pursuing unwinnable battles” is definitely true. The single survivor of Khandahar could tell you that.

    Regards, Cernig

  5. Bithead says:

    The comparison to Dunkirk is interesting.
    And a little more telling than I think you really wanted to be:

    Are you REALLY telling us that you think the Democrats have the stones to re-group the Military and attack the Jihadists again, at ANY time?

    Yeah, right.

    And what kind of trap are we now hearing proposed? Ah, yes, let’s bait them with the Sears tower… we’ll get right where they want us, huh?

  6. Bithead says:

    The comment regarding my post from last June is withdrawn.

    Apparently, I edited out a few lines from the original document before posting it, and the reference to no war has ever” (etc) was one that got clipped.

    (I usually use WORD for the purpose, and cut and paste from there, or use Blogger’s WORD macros to actually post)

    The text I quoted was in the word doc, (I keep ALL my posts in word docs… easier to search that way) but not in the actual post… there were a few other lines missing as well in the post that were in the original draft.

    I wrote it, but never posted it. Since I can’t prove it, comment withdrawn.

  7. anjin-san says:

    Well I am a Democrat who would not mind seeing attacks on the people WHO ACTUALLY ATTACKED US.

    Bush’s sideshow in Iraq is not doing this. No doubt we have succeeded in creating a whole new group of folks who hate us, and if it make Bit feel good to call them terrorists and pretend that killing them somehow evens the score for 9/11 or makes us safer, well I hope he and Tatoo are enjoying life on fantasy island. I think his claim about “the jaws of victory” shows just how little contact with reality he really has.

    And yes Bit, I do have a question. Why don’t you grab a rifle and get your candy ass over there into the meat grinder you seem perfectly happy to send thousand of American boys into?

  8. Anderson says:

    No war was ever won by stupidity and folly, either, but that didn’t stop Bush & Rumsfeld.

  9. >Nobody ever said it was going to be easy, or
    >short.

    “It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.” — Donald Rumsfeld

    “I think it will go relatively quickly, … (in) weeks rather than months.” — Dick Cheney

  10. Bithead says:

    Well I am a Democrat who would not mind seeing attacks on the people WHO ACTUALLY ATTACKED US.

    And so we did.
    Oh… you think our responses should be limited to groups of people who call themselves COUNTRY?

    Sorry, reality doesn’t work that way.

  11. Bithead says:

    Well I am a Democrat who would not mind seeing attacks on the people WHO ACTUALLY ATTACKED US.

    And yes Bit, I do have a question. Why don’t you grab a rifle and get your candy ass over there into the meat grinder you seem perfectly happy to send thousand of American boys into?

    And at what point have you grabbed a rifle and attacked those who attacked us?

    Do tell. We’ll wait.

  12. Bandit says:

    Are you REALLY telling us that you think the Democrats have the stones to re-group the Military and attack the Jihadists again, at ANY time?

    Bush’s greatest mistake was to confuse the professed support he received after 9/11 with actual committment to deal with terrorist mass murderers.

  13. Anderson says:

    Facts, Stormy Dragon? No fair!

  14. Boyd says:

    C’mon, anjin-san. When you resort to the so-discredited-you-look-like-a-foolish-partisan accusation of chickenhawk, you’re outright admitting you have nothing to contribute. Once again you prove the tenuous nature of your connection to reality.

    And as Bit said, you go grab your own damn rifle if you think you can do it better.

    Sheesh!

  15. Cernig says:

    Bithead,

    I fail to see why my mentioning Dunkirk should be more revealing, in your view, than my mentioning the retreat to Moscow or any number of others I could have mentioned.(The retreat to Moscow again springs to mind – only this time against Napoleon. Or would you prefer the retreat from Bull Run? Or the retreats from the battles of Long Island, Harlem Heights and White Plains?) Do I have to keep coming up with examples to show your little slogan is both overly simplistic and militarily naive?

    But go on, give me your penny-ante psychoanalysis based just on your prejudices about liberals. I need a laugh.

    Regards, Cernig

  16. Tano says:

    So now the wingnuts like the chickenhawk arguement? I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused (to coin a phrase).

    The war should always have been against the people who attacked us, and their allies. Saddam was not one of them, and to inject an Iraqi regime change / democracy building project in the middle of a war against islamic fundamentalist jihadis has been proven, by them damn facts, to be an immensly stupid idea.

    Cernig is correct that withdrawl from one battlefield to focus on a more relevant and promisng one is not only wise, but often successful. And of course the Dems would be up for that, given that they have been arguing for it for the last three years (or many of them have – the others were going along with Bush).

    The flip side to Barnes’ line works too. Many wars have been lost by a failure to withdraw from unfavorable positions.

  17. anjin-san says:

    Bithead,

    I called the Army Reserve the day after 9/11. Was basically told “run along pal, you are too old”.

    Whats your story pal? Just another war cheerleader?

  18. Bandit says:

    There seems to be a profound inability to understand the difference between retreat and surrender. Surrender is what the Dems have every intention of doing.

  19. spencer says:

    Bithead — I am a 65 year old that gave years of my life in service to my county and put myself in harms way.

    What have your done for your country?

  20. Bithead says:

    Spencer:

    Really?

    Where?