My Two Cents: War means public needs to toughen up, gain perspective

I was glad to see that supporters greatly outnumbered protesters this Saturday near Fort Lewis, as the largest deployment of Washington state’s National Guard began with some 3,500 members of the 81st Armor Brigade reporting to active duty.

The hundreds of supporters that greeted the soldiers with flags, red roses, cheers and renditions of “God Bless America” dwarfed the 20 or 30 protesters carrying peace signs and calling for the return of troops from Iraq.

To me, this is good news, as it seems a portion of the American public needs to toughen up and gain some perspective on the subject of the war in Iraq.

Listening to the protesters and most of the Democratic party (Official motto: Whatever President Bush does is wrong!), one would think the U.S. is involved in the greatest military struggle in its history in Iraq. I am truly baffled by this, because as tragic as it is that some 400-plus soldiers have died in the war, that is a relatively small number of deaths considering the fact that the U.S. has militarily defeated and is currently occupying a sovereign nation in the Middle East. Other wars the U.S. has fought have proved far more costly in terms of the number of lives lost: 58,000 in Vietnam and 290,000 in World War II are just two examples.

Equally perplexing to me is the notion that the U.S. should simply withdrawal from Iraq before stabilizing the country in preparation for self-rule. Whether you agree or disagree with the decision to invade Iraq, do we really want to send the message to terrorists – and the war in Iraq is part of the war against Islamic terrorists – that when the going gets tough, the U.S. backs down? Indeed, Osama bin Laden was emboldened to attack America on Sept. 11, 2001, following the 1993 withdrawal of U.S. forces in the aftermath of the “Black Hawk Down” incident in Somalia, where the U.S. lost 18 troops attempting to capture a warlord.

I’m certainly not a war monger, but I recognize the inevitability of people dying in war, and though it’s of little comfort to the family and friends of the soldiers who have died, the U.S. has gotten off comparatively light in this conflict. Finishing the job in Iraq will be difficult. Dealing with the consequences of simply pulling out now could be disastrous.

“My Two Cents” is a weekly column where the author – who supports the troops – gets in his two cents worth in spite of the old saying that you only get a penny for your thoughts.