What will it cost to "finish the job"? And what exactly is "the job"?
There is a car parked outside my work that has a self-made laserjet printout taped to the inside back window. It is a silhouette of the outline of Iraq, and some pithy statement like "Don't dishonor our soldiers - Stay and finish the job!".
I've heard that line, usually when some dispassionate conservative is speaking about Cindy Sheehan. The logic, I suppose, is that over 1,899 soldiers have died in Iraq, so we need to have more soldiers die in Iraq so that the ones who are already dead will not have died in vain. Because, you know, they died to prevent Saddam from using his weapons of mass destruction against us. I mean, to topple a cruel and vicious dictator who tortured his own people in Abu Ghraib prison. I mean, to liberate the Iraqi people and bring them sovereignty, security, electricity, water, schools, and the vote. I mean, to make Iraq into the model democracy of the Middle East where Shia, Sunni, and Kurd live in blissful harmony and the entire region cascades into America-lovin' capitalism like falling dominoes.
Hell, I don't know what I mean. I think last I heard it was to protect the oil fields and pipelines from the terrorists who weren't there until we went and invaded. Whatever. As long as those boys don't die in vain.
So, all I ask is this: What is "the job" and how much is it going to cost? We heard "overthrow a dictator with WMDs, about six months, very few lives, and the country can pay for its own reconstruction." Now we've heard ever-shifting rationales, it's 29 months later, we've lost 1,899 lives (actually more) and thousands of limbs, and it's cost $200 million. So what is it?
Let's even give them the "We have to fight them there so we don't fight them here" point for the sake of argument (as if terrorists can't multi-task). Let's even dreamily delude ourselves into the idea that the three ethnicities who've hated each other for centuries and all desire their own land can somehow be cobbled together into the shining beacon of Middle Eastern democracy. Even ceding those ridiculous pipe dreams, I still ask "what's it going to cost?"
What's the answer, untax-and-overspend conservatives? Bush said "whatever it takes?" What is that? Three more years? Five years? Ten years? Twenty years?
How many lives? Another 2,000? 5,000? 10,000? A Vietnam-like 50,000?
How much treasure? Another $200 billion? $500 billion? A couple trillion?
I wouldn't let a contractor remodel my house without nailing him down to at least some sort of estimate. Yet we're supposed to "stay the course" in Iraq, giving the president a blank check, an open calendar, and neverending pool of twentysomethings, even after every previous estimate has been shown to be fraudulent, even after two-and-a-half years of proven failure and incompetance?
An American serviceman never dies in vain. The act of sacrificing oneself for the ideal of protecting one's county is never a misbegotten act. We must have a military and we must have people willing to volunteer to follow orders without question, or else that military cannot function. In trade for absolute obedience to elected authority, all the military ever asks is that the mission be clear, the goals be achievable, and the deployment of lethal force be used only as a last resort. The serviceman who dies in the line of duty is always noble, even if his leadership is not.
Withdrawing from Iraq would not be a failure of our military. It would not render any dead serviceman's sacrifice unworthy. It would only be a recognition of the failure of our administration and render our leadership unworthy. But since this is the gang that can never admit any mistakes, I have a feeling that many, many more servicemen are going to not die in vain before this is over.