These tired old eyes (or maybe ears) recently saw (or heard) the phrase at the head of this commentary used in connection with the continuing, heightened challenge facing the United States in Iraq. Not “cut and run,” but rather “cut and walk.” After more than three and a half years of almost ceaseless fighting, the combination of insurrection and sectarian violence and incipient civil war has become bloodier than ever. U. S. and British forces prevailed on the battlefield in short order in 2003, but Washington’s evidently poor planning and erroneous strategic concepts left the peace yet to be won.
Iraqis—men, women, and children—die in large numbers every single day; U. S. soldiers and marines die or suffer serious wounds on a daily basis. Iraqis by the tens of thousands are forced out and continue to flee the country, seeking sanctuary elsewhere in the Middle East. Material damage to Iraq’s cities and infrastructure has risen to practically incalculable totals.
Iraq is in a dreadful mess.
In this journal we do not engage in partisan political finger pointing or name-calling. Nonetheless, here one can readily identify this Iraq debacle as the most disastrous initiative by Washington policy makers in the international sphere since Vietnam some four decades ago. The nation back then managed to extricate itself from that quagmire only after several years of “Vietnamization” and the eventual abandonment of the Saigon regime. And prior to Vietnam the nation had no equivalent experience of stalemate and defeat; not even the bloody standoff in Korea qualified in that regard.
Due to U. S. strategic decisions gone wrong, the Iraq Study Group’s recent offering, an eighty-four-page report incorporating no fewer than seventy-odd recommendations, perhaps points the way for a changed strategy and some improvement of the situation. It is hardly a blueprint for success, however, and it appears at this point unlikely the administration will accept very many of its recommendations in any event.
What does appear all too possible to this observer is that the U. S. government eventually will end up adopting some form of a Vietnam-type ending for the drama. Not exactly a cut and run, that is. Nor on the other hand does it seem probable that Washington will adopt proposals that would see additional American troops sent to that benighted land.
One guesses, and even perhaps hopes, the policies adopted will lead to an early retirement of American combat forces at least to staging areas outside Iraq. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and other Gulf locales come to mind. If provisions should be made in this retrograde movement for a U. S. training role in Iraq, so be it—although this strikes one as a highly dangerous course of action for the troops left behind.
What’s needed, then, not to put too complicated an interpretation on it, is the “cut and walk” strategy. Get U. S. combat personnel out of Iraq just as soon as they can be withdrawn in an orderly fashion. Out, I say.
Editor Henry E. Mattox