Five term Dem. Congressman Brian Baird (Wash-3rd CD) was interviewed in The Olympian shortly after his return from his 5th trip to Iraq and the Middle East. Despite voting against the war he has come to believe that precipitous withdrawal would be a disaster.
He states in conclusion:
U.S. Rep. Brian Baird said Thursday that his recent trip to Iraq convinced him the military needs more time in the region, and that a hasty pullout would cause chaos that helps Iran and harms U.S. security.
"I believe that the decision to invade Iraq and the post-invasion management of that country were among the largest foreign-policy mistakes in the history of our nation. I voted against them, and I still think they were the right votes," Baird said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C.
"But we're on the ground now. We have a responsibility to the Iraqi people and a strategic interest in making this work."
As James Taranto points out in Best of the Web Today (8/20/07):
.... the United States tore up Iraq with its invasion in 2003, dismantling civil government and industries and tossing a half-million people out of work, but that three years of U.S. help is not enough to let Iraq rebuild.
Baird said he would not say this if he didn't believe two things:
• "One, I think we're making real progress."
• "Secondly, I think the consequences of pulling back precipitously would be potentially catastrophic for the Iraqi people themselves, to whom we have a tremendous responsibility … and in the long run chaotic for the region as a whole and for our own security."
The distinction Baird makes is a crucial one, and one that war opponents usually elide. Whether Congress made a mistake in authorizing Iraq's liberation is a separate question from what to do now. Yet war opponents act as if favoring a precipitous withdrawal logically and necessarily follows from regretting the decision to liberate.
Why? Part of it, we suppose, is a sort of binary simplemindedness: It was bad to go in, ergo it would be good to get out. Real life is more complicated. It may be that it was a mistake to go in but a precipitous withdrawal would compound the error.
But maybe those who argue for withdrawal seek precisely to compound the error. Failure in Iraq would vindicate the position of those who originally argued that the war would be a mistake. Likewise for those who supported the war but later changed their minds--they may be cynical opportunists, but they may also have the zeal of a convert. If America loses the war, they win the argument.
And defeat in Iraq would vindicate not only opposition to Iraq but an entire worldview--what we've called the worldview of baby-boom liberalism. America's defeat in Vietnam was a triumph for baby-boom liberalism--a triumph that some seem never to have given up trying to relive.