The heavy price of American withdrawal

Bret Stephens:


The Cambodian genocide is especially worth recalling today not only for what it was, but for the public debates in the West that immediately preceded it. "The greatest gift our country can give to the Cambodian people is peace, not guns," said then-congressman, now senator, Chris Dodd, by way of making the case against the Ford administration's bid to extend military assistance to the pro-American government of Lon Nol.

In the New York Times, Sydney Schanberg reported from Cambodia that "it is difficult to imagine how [Cambodian] lives could be anything but better with the Americans gone." Mr. Schanberg added that "it would be tendentious to forecast [genocide] as a national policy under a Communist government once the war is over."

A year later, Mr. Schanberg was awarded a Pulitzer Prize, though not for tendentiousness.

All in all, America's withdrawal from Southeast Asia resulted in the killing of an estimated 165,000 South Vietnamese in so-called re-education camps; the mass exodus of one million boat people, a quarter of whom died at sea; the mass murder, estimated at 100,000, of Laos's Hmong people; and the killing of somewhere between one million and two million Cambodians.

Now we have the debate over Afghanistan. Should America begin to withdraw, and if so, how soon and by how much? These are important questions, although it's interesting to note how so many of the same people—including the Time columnist mentioned above—who now see nothing but quagmire and futility in Afghanistan were making precisely the same noises about Iraq in 2007. As was once said about the old Bourbon dynasty, they forget nothing—and they learn nothing.

It's also interesting to note that the further the debate moves politically leftward, the louder the calls for an immediate withdrawal become. Here again, the same people who protest every drone strike as a violation of the laws of war, or trumpet every inflated Taliban claim of civilian casualties as irrefutable fact, also want America out of Afghanistan. Right now. For the sake of peace.

The Wikileakers hope to force a US withdrawal the same way the leakers of the Pentagon Papers hoped to force the US to abandon Southeast Asia. The toll of that withdrawal was worse than the war, but left wing anti war pukes will never admit it. That is another reason why they should be ignored this time around.


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