McCarthy says that “we will rue the day we leave Iraq without routing radical Islam.” But what does that even mean? How exactly are we supposed to “rout” an ideology? If we “surge” a few thousand more troops, will “radical Islam” surrender? And is there any reason at all to believe that we can kill all the radical Islamists in Iraq, much less do so without creating legions of new ones? Our very presence in Iraq has served as the rallying cry for a whole new generation of jihadists, who are popping up all over the globe and continue to flock to Iraq for valuable on the job training.
In McCarthy’s view, the only acceptable policy is to keep fighting in Iraq until we’ve defeated the terrorists. But that’s a Sisyphean task, a never-ending game of whack-a-mole. And, of course, the only reason foreign terrorists are even in Iraq is because we are. There’s no reason to believe that these foreign jihadists would stick around (or that Iraqis would let them stick around) if we were to leave.
The bottom line is that we can’t allow ourselves to be drawn into a perpetual, self-sustaining battle just because some guys in a cave in Pakistan will taunt us if we change course. The only way we really “lose” here is if we resolve to continue pursuing unattainable goals.