It is well-known that Jim Wallis is a lefty evangelical and that he opposes the American war in Iraq. I think that people of good will can have different opinions about the war. But I don’t think that Wallis’ inflammatory rhetoric is at all helpful or constructive.
In a recent blog post in response to President Bush’s announcement of a troop surge, Wallis lambastes President Bush as a liar who deceived the country into an unjust and unwinnable war. He writes,
‘The war in Iraq was unjust; to continue it now is criminal. There is no winning in Iraq. This was a war that should have never been fought â€“ or won. It can’t be won, and the truth is that there are no good solutions now â€“ that’s how unjust wars often turn out. The president says that “failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States.” But we have already failed in Iraq and it has already become a disaster for Americans, Iraqis, the Middle East, and even for the larger campaign against terrorism. The mistaken war in Iraq can only be mercifully ended, in ways that cause the least damage to everyone involved… It will likely take new international leadership to help fix the mess of Iraq, because U.S. leadership has brought one calamity after another. Unjust wars cause massive human suffering. When will we ever learn?’
I understand Wallis’ position against the war, but I don’t understand how he (or any other of my countrymen) can seriously advocate a precipitous exit from Iraq. Nearly everyone on both sides of this issue agrees that pulling out of Iraq now would be an absolute disaster. To pull out now would likely result in all-out civil war and genocide on a scale that would make what we are seeing now pale in comparison.
To leave now would plunge innocent Iraqis (whom Wallis seems to care so much about) into a darkness far worse than anything we have seen yet. Tragic stories of sectarian violence like this one will become more widespread if the U.S. pulls out now. Moreover, experts say that the war would surely widen into a regional conflict that the U.S. would have to re-insert itself into. I do not see how Wallis thinks this kind of failure in Iraq is preferable to trying to achieve victory now.
Wallis calls for diplomacy and a political solution to the conflict. But everyone knows that there is no political solution apart from security. If U.S. forces leave, so does any remnants of security. There will be no diplomatic niceties or political solutions in that moment. Only war and despair on a much greater scale.
Wallis also alleges that President Bush manipulated the U.S. into this war by lying to them and saying that Iraq was connected to the attacks of 9-11. Wallis is simply, factually wrong on this one. I hope the error is unintentional. But at no time did President Bush ever suggest that Saddam Hussein was behind the attacks of 9-11. Never did he make such a claim, and I defy anyone to produce the speech or interview in which he did. It never happened.
I know that there is no easy solution in Iraq. I know that victory will come at a heavy price for the United States. But I also know that defeat and failure in Iraq will be worse for the U.S. and for Iraq in the long run. There are many who disagree with this assessment, and I am happy to dialogue with them. But rhetoric like Wallis’ is counterproductive to reasonable discourse. I hope that such shrill voices do not prevail in this important conversation.