No doubt about it: America is paying a price for freeing Iraq. More than 600 Americans have paid the ultimate price. My generation has paid the lion's share. We're doing the heavy lifting -- enduring hardships, leaving loved ones behind and risking our lives.
All of which makes it difficult to watch recent events give fresh ammunition to war critics such as Sen. Ted Kennedy, who has called Iraq "Bush's Vietnam." Sen. John Kerry labels Iraq a "mess" and claims that it's "one of the greatest failures of judgment" he's seen in his public life.
When things appear to be going wrong, it's only natural to revisit basic questions such as "Are we doing the right thing?" or "Is it worth it?" Former U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix recently gave his answer to these questions: "The war has liberated the Iraqis from Saddam, but the costs have been too great."
But has Blix fully and accurately weighed the benefits of liberation?
Does he value freedom as highly as, say, the Iraqi people who have been freed from decades of tyranny and oppression? No longer do Iraqis have to fear Saddam Hussein's torture chambers and rape rooms. They can sleep in peace knowing they won't be added to the 300,000 people buried in mass graves.
No, life still isn't easy for the Iraqi people. They face new challenges. Yet a recent poll commissioned by ABC and the BBC showed 57 percent of Iraqis believed life is better now than it was under Saddam. More than 70 percent said they expect things to be better in a year's time.
Even if you discount the value of freeing an oppressed people from Hussein's vicious grip, a successful democracy in Iraq will pay huge dividends to the free world for generations. At best, Iraq would become a beacon of liberty to the rest of the Middle East. At the very least, we can look forward to having a faithful ally in the midst of a volatile region.
An unstable Iraq would spell disaster in the world for generations. All the sacrifice and blood spilt by members of my generation would be for naught. Make no mistake about it: A chaotic Iraq would be a victory for terrorists. It would be a showcase not of liberty, but of failure. Civil war, anarchy, a breeding ground for terrorists and a return to a radical Islamic dictatorship are just a few possible outcomes.
If we retreat, the free world will be shackled with the cost of cowardice. Terrorists don't respect diplomacy or weakness. It is the American retreat from Somalia that created the image of a "paper tiger" to terrorists worldwide. Did terrorism halt in Spain after they announced a withdrawal from Iraq? No, the terrorists responded by planting more bombs.
The youth of America holds a large stake in the outcome. Not only are we sacrificing for the Iraqi liberation; we're going to be left with the remnants of the struggle.
The settlement of World War I led to World War II. The end of World War II brought the agreement that strengthened the Soviet Union leading to the Cold War. The first Gulf War left Iraqi's liberation for our generation. We must learn from history -- appeasement leads to future conflict.
Fighting terrorism and oppression is a proud task for my generation. The coalition should, as President Bush has said, "stay the course" and successfully establish a democratic Iraq. The cost may be high, but it's worth it.
Jason Doré, an intern at The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org), will be attending law school at Louisiana State University in the fall. He is a native of Lafayette, La.
Distributed nationally on the Knight-Ridder Tribune – KRT Campus youth wire.