Disaster of Hasty Withdrawal

By Henry Kissinger
The Washington Post
September 16, 2007

TWO realities define the range of a meaningful debate on Iraq policy: The war cannot be ended by military means alone. But neither is it possible to “end” the war by ceding the battlefield. American decisions in the next few months will not be able to end the crises in Iraq and the Middle East before the change of American administrations. Even while the political cycle tempts a debate geared to focus groups, a bipartisan foreign policy is imperative.

The experience of Vietnam is often cited as the example for the potential debacle that awaits us in Iraq. But we will never learn from history if we keep telling ourselves myths about it. The passengers on American helicopters fleeing Saigon were not American troops but Vietnamese civilians. American forces had left two years earlier. What collapsed Vietnam was the congressional decision to reduce aid to Vietnam by two-thirds and to cut if off altogether for Cambodia in the face of a massive North Vietnamese invasion that violated every provision of the Paris Peace Accords.

Should America repeat a self-inflicted wound? An abrupt withdrawal from Iraq will not end the war; it will only redirect it. Within Iraq, the sectarian conflict could assume genocidal proportions; terrorist base areas could re-emerge.

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