"We can walk away from this enemy, but they will not walk away from us," Abizaid told the forum audience during a discussion titled "The Long War."
"We have not failed yet and we will not fail if we all understand what we have to do. If we can stay together nothing can stop us and we can make the world a better place."
Abizaid cited what he called the three greatest challenges facing the world - the Arab-Israeli conflict; the rise of extremist groups "with a dark vision of the future"; and, specifically, the dangers posed by "Shia revolutionary thought."
Critics of the war will say we shouldn't have gone into Iraq in the first place and so just caused our looming defeat (assuming a rapid withdrawal and the failure of the Iraqi government to defeat the Sunnis without us--which I don't assume). This misses the point that our enemies consider the "good war" in Afghanistan or even bad cartoons as reason to kill us. They don't need Iraq to want to kill us. Heck, they didn't need Afghanistan to kill us as 9/11 shows.
More importantly in regard to Iraq, it ignores why we would lose in Iraq if we pulled out and chaos results from our withdrawal. The only reason we could lose a lot if we withdraw from Iraq is because we've already gained much. And if we hold fast until we defeat the insurgents we could win even more.
Consider that if Iraq devolves into civil war we would consider it a defeat. Then remember that in February 2003, we would have considered a civil war in Iraq as a great victory. It would have meant that the people of Iraq had risen up against the Baathists. It would have meant that the Shias were battling the entrenched Sunni Baathist regime with a chance of ending the regime. We would have had the opportunity to try and send in special forces to repeat our Afghanistan success. Civil war and chaos would have been an improvement over an enemy regime running Iraq that supported terror, threatened the stability of the region, and wanted WMD.
Had we helped the Shias and Kurds win that insurrection, we would have gotten a Shia-run Iraq with the Kurds still safe in their mountain redoubt. The death and destruction that would have been necessary for the Shias to defeat the Baathists when the Shias had only their numbers going for them would have dwarfed the losses of the last three and a half years. The Baathists probably wouldn't have accepted their defeat whether the Shia victory meant Shias marched on Baghdad to take the capital or just managed to eject Saddam's security apparatus from the Shia south.
Sounds worse than what we have today, eh? And that scenario would have been an improvement over the status quo of February 2003.
Today a civil war in Iraq would be a defeat for us rather than a victory. Why? Because the established Iraqi government is freely elected and represents the majority. Despite some Sadrists and "ex"-Baathists inside the government, the government fights with us and is our ally. A civil war that weakens the authority of our allied government would be a step backwards.
Is this not crystal clear? To accept that we would lose in Iraq now should a civil war break out on our withdrawal requires us to accept that we've gained much already by invading and establishing a democracy inside Iraq.
So by fighting in Iraq we have the opportunity for a great victory along with our risk of a great defeat. As General Abizaid said of the Long War--and which applies to Iraq itself:
"Think of it as an opportunity to confront fascism in 1920 if only we'd had the guts to do it then," he continued. "I believe that if we don't have guts enough to confront this ideology today, we will move toward World War III tomorrow."
Victory should be our only goal. It's the only goal of our enemies, after all. And victory in the Iraq campaign could be a great stride toward victory in the Long War. We've won a lot already, don't you know.
Have the courage and confidence to collect the Iraq victory that our soldiers and Marines are bleeding to provide us. All we back home have to provide are money and patience.
Is that too much to ask of the citizens of the greatest nation on this planet? God help us if it is too much.