Leaving doesn’t have to mean giving up accountability, either.
Mistakes, catastrophic ones, were made by the planners and executors of this war, and leaving just means we can address those mistakes without the tiresome refrain that any questioning of anyone’s authority anywhere is undermining the troops in the field. It might even speed up the Congressional hearings, if that worn-out argument can be dispensed with.
Leaving can mean we bring the troops home to a thank you, a parade: Thank you for trying to do your best in a bad situation, thank you for your sense of duty in a cynical world, thank you for serving your country faithfully. Thank you, and welcome home.
Leaving can mean we begin spending the billions we’re spending in Iraq on care for those who fought in Iraq, on improvements to conditions at veterans’ hospitals and increased funding for mental health services to treat post traumatic stress disorder and other invisible casualties of war.
Leaving can mean we begin to deal with this conflict from a position of hindsight, in which missteps can be soberly assessed, lessons learned, and resolutions made never to repeat the disaster that has occupied us the past four and a half years.
The president does not have to cling so desperately to the idea that staying is the only way to victory. He does not even have to worry about the damage to his political reputation — and not just because it would be hard for his reputation to get any worse. He can realize what any savvy politician would: that presiding over the homecoming of U.S. troops would go a long way toward allaying the hostility of voters toward him and his party and his war.
Leaving doesn’t have to mean losing. It’s only the president who keeps insisting that it does.