Unlearning the lessons of the past

Now the Democrats are saying we need a “clearly defined exit strategy” in Iraq. This is a time-honored practice — but honored in its failure. Let’s look back on the 20th Century wars of the United States, and see just how well the application of this theory has held up:

World War I:
Exit Strategy: Yes, come home as soon as it’s over and start 20+ years of isolationism.
Consequence: World War II

World War II:
Exit Strategy: None.
Return date of troops: Still pending, 60+ years later
Consequence: Germany and Japan become staunch allies.

Korea:
Exit Strategy: None.
Return date of troops: Still pending, 50+ years later
Consequence: No resumption of war.

Viet Nam:
Exit strategy: Pull out after treaty signed.
Return date of troops: within a few years of signing.
Consequence: North reneges on treaty, conquers South, still Communist 30 years later.

Gulf War I:
Exit Strategy: ground troops out, enforcement of terms of surrender from air only.
Return date of troops: nearly all within a year or so of surrender.
Consequences: 12 years of “cheat and retreat,” “Oil For Food” scandal, re-invasion 12 years later.

Balkans:
Exit Strategy: Too many to count, never fulfilled.
Return date of troops: “By Christmas,” but still present.
Consequences: semi-permanent presence of US forces 10 years later.

The lesson is clear:

Exit strategies are for wars that you don’t plan to win, and to win decisively.

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