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Not why or if, but how long before we withdraw from Iraq?

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If we want the Iraqis to survive, we must set a course for withdrawal.

I have heard the argument said again and again that if we set a deadline for leaving Iraq, that the insurgents and terrorists will set their schedule accordingly and ramp up their plans for DAY X.

Trouble is, they aren’t exactly sitting on their hands now, waiting patiently and doing nothing. They’re killing a lot of people.

In the meantime what ARE we doing there?

Ah, that’s where the rhetorical dust gets kicked up to cloud the issue and the partisan divide is longer than Pi’s decimal places. Like the number pi, in fact, the arguments get both irrational and even transcendental.

I believe realistically and objectively speaking, many of the achievements for Iraqi democracy so far claimed by the Administration sadly are fleeting at best and non-existent at worst. Removing Saddam Hussein – “regime change” – was at one time our stated goal and that action has indeed been one step toward furthering the goal of Iraqi democracy.

However, we seem well on our way to establishing something which wasn’t there before — an Islamic fundamentalist government that limits women’s rights and leans heavily toward Shia religious law ruling all. As well, the constitution currently seems poised to being democratically defeated when it comes up for a vote in October.

From a policy standpoint, do events and rhetoric seem rushed? While for
soldiers it’s daily drudgery with survival to the next day being the most satisfying achievement and the immediate definition of success. It was ever so in war, perhaps, but how many soldiers believe they have any other objective in mind?

So what will picking a date of withdrawal do? Here’s what.

• It will encourage all Iraqis who want their country to succeed to come forward, receive and really “get” training and fight back to provide their own security; it’s America’s stated goal as well as the state goal of most of the private training companies in Iraq.

• It will encourage the Iraqi politicians to compromise; after all we are asking that now and a little extra motivation seems to be in order to get it done.

• Pragmatically (which means politically) speaking, this would also put the onus on the Iraqi people to shape up or their future civil war becomes their fault. I’m not too sure how many people would agree, but it’s a political out. Unfortunately, due to what has happened already in Iraq, that civil war may not be too far away and the American presence does not seem to be lessening this possibility.

So, 100 percent of Americans know that at some point, we will withdraw from Iraq. But deciding when is tricky because there are six degrees of trust – or mistrust – involved here – The fate of the Kurds, Geographic location of Iraqi oil (and, related, world oil supply), Republican election strategy, What the majority of Iraqis want, What the American military is allowed to achieve, and Iranian / Shia influence (see Tom Clancy’s “Executive Orders” for an exaggerated fictionalization of what is happening now.)

With those six, it does not matter who’s right. It describes the basic points of the reality of the situation.

To start this discussion in any meaningful way we – you and me – have to leave out a lot of details and “what ifs …” To focus in on this one question you have to ignore a lot of what has happened, to date, and what has been said, to date, to look at the situation right now.

I suppose we should first define withdrawal. Let’s say it is a 95 percent reduction of US troops and privatized soldiers, with 8,000 or so lingering soldiers and forces remaining behind as a monitoring presence.

Or does “withdrawal” mean most troops leave but manned military bases remain? Hard to say. That the Administration wants bases has been voiced and denied by members of the Administration. (See also the Pentagon’s new Global Force Posture Review – and here.)

Is that what will come when we do withdraw? And regardless of the decision, will Iraq suffer withdrawal symptoms?

Do we leave before the end of the year? This year? Next year? We would leave a mess, instigated, if not created or even prolonged by American forces and policy.

Can we leave right in time for 2006 elections? To do so means to taint the reasons and the sacrifice of American families and the families and soldiers of our rotating band of allies along the way. We cannot withdraw just because it is politically fortuitous and expedient. And that is not, after all, the current Defense Department plan.

Success

We want to leave only after America has achieved it’s goals in the region. so withdrawal is conditioned on “success.”

But there is a difference between claiming success if there are elections and a constitution and whether those institutions have strong, long-lasting infrastructures or whether they resemble the fragility of Soweto shanty towns. For example, as a simple statement of fact without value judgment, in Venezuela, a democratically-elected president is reviled and criticized for his leadership and ideology. Is that Iraq’s fate?

Ultimately Americans know deep down that “stay the course” can only take you so far before stubborn hope and faith in what “should” be, trumps ugly bloodshed and reason. That certainly hasn’t happened, yet. But without an answer to my original question – How long before we withdraw from Iraq? – America most certainly does run the risk of becoming entrenched with little gain but having expended massively in life and money.

I advocate that stay the course is not an answer to this situation.

A date for withdrawal is the better answer for all parties concerned.

TempleStark.com is my personal blog.

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About temple

Always been a writer, always maintained an interest in politics, how people communicate and fantasy worlds within photography and books. Previously wrote for Blogcritics back in 2005 and interested in exploring the issues and topics I'm interested - the changing landscape of entertainment. all from the POV of a creator first, consumer, second.
  • http://jmaximus.blogspot.com John Bill

    The real reason we invaded is 1, because we could and 2, to transform Arab society. Weapons of mass destruction were a pretext. The real weapon of mass destruction is a modern society. This is a weapon we have unleashed on them. A free Iraq will destabilize every kingdom in the Middle East. Egypt is already on the verge of collapse; Iran may be the next big one to fall.

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    I think you started addressing what may happen from your POV. But Iraq already had a modern society – and not just compared to its neighbors.

    And what do you mean by the “fall” of Iraq? A genuine question – it means different things to different people, so I’m wondering what it means to you.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    I doubt there will be a date set prior to the ’06 elections. The likely scenario is that the Iraqi mess will be punted to post-2008 with a long and trickling draw down of troop levels.

    The Chris Matthews Show (the Sunday one) played tape this week of Chronkite breaking his objectivity in ’68. I think we’re in a similar mode right now, with long years of quagmire ahead.

  • http://www.suddennothing.net LegendaryMonkey

    My dear Mr. Stark, you’ve voiced a difficult opinion in a very even-handed fashion, and I applaud you.

    And I find I must agree. By not setting a date, we cast suspicious of imperialism, despite the myriad motives and reasons (whatever you believe) for our military presence in Iraq. But so many people on both sides are disconnected from what is going on, from average citizens who watch the evening news to the soldiers themselves and all the way, as some think, up to the administration that it is time to critically acces our plans and purpose and form a concrete plan of some sort.

    We’ve been there a long time. Things are not improving dramatically. We are bleeding money. And all without knowing if our continued presence is really helping or if it’s a crutch of sorts… or if that suspicion of imperialism is actually harming our position.

    It’s time. Give us a date! Yes, a real timeline!

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    This very issue could end up costing some Repubs their jobs in ’06.

    It will be interesting to see if major Dem leaders are willing or able to step up to call for a date.

    Very interestingly, Chuck Hagel is the most prominent figure from either party (as far as I can tell) to come close to the line for calling for a withdrawal date.

  • Shark

    Sunday, Aug. 28, 2005 – New York Times

    op-ed by David Brooks

    I urge all to read it; contains one of the few sensible and sane solutions to Bush’s Blunder, aka Iraq — although I tend to think it’s about 2 year too late to instigate such a plan.

    PS: Watched “Gunner Palace” a few days ago; it’s a pretty apolitical documentary (?) IMO, but it just added to my sense that Iraq is a massive disaster which USA and Iraq (+ world?) won’t recover from for decades.

    Best expression of total futility: the black US GI training Iraqi “security forces” — he says, “What do you think these people will do when we leave? They’re just here for the money…”

    Ugh.

    In other news: wonder what $200 billion and 130,000 soldiers could do for Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama right about now?

    Thanks, George!

  • Shark

    Prediction:

    Between Iraq and the Tsunami, uh, I mean Hurricane Katrina, it appears that Bush will have been at the helm during what will come to be known as The Fall of the American Empire: I predict that U.S. strength, security, economics, etc — will never recover to levels Bush inherited from Clinton.

    Hello, 21st Century! This is the beginning of The End of U.S. Dominance.

    (Bush’s current crisis is maybe comparable to Lincoln during the Civil War…) –?

    Difference: Lincoln became a hero. Bush will be seen as the worst President in history.

    No matter what he does, Bush is fucked as a historical figure — and Katrina’s “trickle down” is gonna make 9/11 look like a picnic.

    Give Bush’s legacy about 20-30 years; then check the history books (if we still have ’em — thanks to the Discovery Institute et al)

    [Shark posts while knocking on the door of Al Barger’s Survivalist Bunker — saying, “Al, ol’ buddy, it’s yer pal… lemmee in, man…”]

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    >>However, we seem well on our way to establishing something which wasn’t there before — an Islamic fundamentalist government that limits women’s rights and leans heavily toward Shia religious law ruling all. As well, the constitution currently seems poised to being democratically defeated when it comes up for a vote in October.<< While there are superficial elements – like the opening statement endorsing Islamic law – which make the Constitution look like it’s pushing Sharia, the fact is that there are a number of specific provisions which go directly against Islamic law, particularly in the area of womens rights and the rule of secular law over religious law in general. If anything, that’s one of the main factors which will make it hard for the Constitution to win approval. As for pulling out, I think that by now it is very clear that the terrorists are NOT particularly targeting the coalition forces. If we were not there they would continue to target civilians and government forces. It is not that the merely object to the US presence there, they object to the very idea of a free and democratic nation in Iraq. It’s also quite clear that despite all the stumbles, the government is gaining in effectiveness, especially in rooting out terrorists – which they are doing a better job of than we’ve been able to do, because they get a lot more cooperation from the general population. As for when we withdraw, I still don’t see any justification for a timetable. All the timetable does is cater to those in the US who bitch endlessly about the war as a matter of partisan principle. It serves no desirable military or diplomatic purpose, will probably do harm in Iraq itself, and indulges the demands of people who ought to be pilloried for their behavior, not catered to. Dave

  • Shark

    Dave: “…All the timetable does is cater to those in the US who bitch endlessly about the war as a matter of partisan principle.”

    Quickly approaching some 60% of the population.

    Leftist Bitchers!

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Shark, I’m going to say something to you I bet you heard a few times while growing up. If 60% of your peer group thought it was fine to strap on a belt made out of C4 and detonate themselves on a school bus would that make it ok for you to do it too?

    Dave

  • ss

    I read a draft of the new constitution about a week ago and there were things I liked but I do have a question.

    The Supreme Federal Court will be made up of members nominated by the Supreme Judiciary Council…

    Who nominates/approves the members of the Supreme Judiciary Council?

    Maybe it was in there and I just missed it, but I didn’t see anything about the make up of the SJC in the constitution.

  • Shark

    Dave, I do the opposite of what the majority does!

    “Reality is the opposite of what The Voice of Authority is telling you.” — R. A. Wilson

    Dave, catch ya later: gotta run outside and play!

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    I’m not about seeing Republicans or Democrats punished or elevated for what’s happening in Iraq; and I don’t really see imperialism at work here; though bases there certainly would be seen that way by some.

    >>All the timetable does is cater to those in the US who bitch endlessly about the war as a matter of partisan principle.

    I’m not entirely sure what that means. I don’t do such complaining and I’m saying a timetable tells the Iraqi people – get it together.

    There are those who say “stay the course” as if that means something; meanwhile it increasily looks to military minds; to some strong-willed politicans’ minds, to many American’s minds, like it means nothing other than “No matter what happens or how bloddy and hopeless it gets we’re gong to be eqully mndless and pig-headed and stay.

    If we do that we do a lot of killing ourselves and we get a lot more deaths. But for what.

    This isn’t about – have we done good. We have done good. It’s about what are wedoing to/for Iraq that can’t be done better by giving them a timetable for withdrawal?

    If the majority of Iraqis support democracy then we need to give them the strengrth and the resolve to step up and fight. We ar enot foinf that now, but setting a date – not a timetable – for withdrawal would be galvanizing.

    I eant to put more in my post about the sense of failure that many would have if we withdrew witohut success. I would share it and be mortified. But “losing face” when balanced with manyother factors, no longer seems enough.

    And we can keep face and faith by helping the Iraqis to democracy not controlling it down to the letter of the law.

    The Iraqi constitution today is most about what America has settled for. And it’s not what we were told would happen.

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    I’ve amazed the masses into silence with my brilliance. Oh look, there’s a blue moon in front of Haley’s Comet.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    >>Quickly approaching some 60% of the population.

    Leftist Bitchers!< < All depends on how you ask the question, Sharky. If you ask something along the lines of "Do you think that there ought to be a plan to get our troops out of Iraq when the job there is done", you get 60% approval and then the left spins it as a significant victory. If you ask a question like "Do you think America should pull out of Iraq immediately and allow the establishment of an Iran-supported theocracy" you get a tiny little number in support. >>Dave, I do the opposite of what the majority does!

    “Reality is the opposite of what The Voice of Authority is telling you.” — R. A. Wilson

    Dave, catch ya later: gotta run outside and play!<< AHA! I knew you were a D&D nerd. The Wilson quote confirms it. Dave

  • Shark

    Dear Temple,

    Iraq: dead americans, billions of dollars …zzzzzzzzz…

    Katrina: Ditto. Ditto… HEY, Whoo-hoo! MUCH BETTER VISUALS!

    Get with the program, man.

    PS: Cindy who?

  • Shark

    Dave, what’s a D&D nerd?

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    >>I’m not entirely sure what that means. I don’t do such complaining and I’m saying a timetable tells the Iraqi people – get it together.< < The problem with a timetable is that it's like a promise. If we can't live up to it we look bad. If we have to cut corners and rush things to make the deadline we look bad. It boxes us in and really sets us up to fail. I do agree taht the Iraqis ought to be encouraged to get their act together, but they don't want us there indefinitely all that much, and they understand that our leaving is contingent on their assumption of responsibilites we're now handling for them. >>If the majority of Iraqis support democracy then we need to give them the strengrth and the resolve to step up and fight. We ar enot foinf that now, but setting a date – not a timetable – for withdrawal would be galvanizing.< < Perhaps rather than a strict chronological timetable we could give them a sort of checklist. We could say "when X, Y, and Z conditions have been met we'll pull out half our troops. When M and P conditions have been met we'll pull out the rest." >>The Iraqi constitution today is most about what America has settled for. And it’s not what we were told would happen.< < The administration needs to stay away from making promises it can't keep. They couldn't reasonably promise a particular type of democracy in Iraq and also leave it up to the Iraqi people to write their own Constitution and form their own government. They got a genuine federal republic that's not nearly as bad as what exists in the countries bordering Iraq. That's more than good enough. >>I’ve amazed the masses into silence with my brilliance. Oh look, there’s a blue moon in front of Haley’s Comet.<< Some people have work, and I had to take a nap and pick the kids up at school. Dave

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    >>The administration needs to stay away from making promises it can’t keep.

    Again, objectively I feel, its track record has been pretty poor on this “promise” thing in Iraq already hasn’t it? Yes.

    >>The problem with a timetable is that it’s like a promise. If we can’t live up to it we look bad.

    If we can’t keep a promise to withdraw two years, four years (four years !!!!, what are we doing there in four years?) hence, or whatever the time – we’re really not doing that great a job. In other words – we look bad then, too.

    >>>>I’ve amazed the masses into silence with my brilliance. Oh look, there’s a blue moon in front of Haley’s Comet.<< Wee joke there. Didn’t really need a response. What are some of the other factors I’ve missed in finding a withdrawal date ladies and gentlemen. I know they’re out there, though I may not agree with you all on what they are. Yeah typo free – diff. between work and being at home.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    >>Again, objectively I feel, its track record has been pretty poor on this “promise” thing in Iraq already hasn’t it? Yes.< < My impression of the administration - and apparently few others share it - is that on the whole they are full of naive good intentions and heartfelt and unrealistic promises - not just on Iraq, but on many topics - and then find themselves unable to actually come through on what they promised to do, and end up embarassed and defensive. >>If we can’t keep a promise to withdraw two years, four years (four years !!!!, what are we doing there in four years?) hence, or whatever the time – we’re really not doing that great a job. In other words – we look bad then, too.<< The problem with, say, a 4-year timetable, is the ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’ factor which always comes into play in American politics. If they say 4 years and it takes longer then they get slammed for underestimating or accused of trying to meedle in Iraqi affairs. If they say 4 years and pull out earlier because they think things are good enough there, if anything goes wrong they get accused of cutting and running or not living up to their obligations or plain old chickening out by the political opposition. It’s a lose-lose proposition. But if you say ‘we pull out when the job is done’, then you defuse a lot of that criticism in advance. And not getting beaten up on politically tends to be one of their top motivations. Dave

  • Baronius

    I’ve got to agree with Dave on this one. I just don’t see the advantage to setting a timetable for leaving. I was going to make some other points, but Dave really covered them all.

    I would also suggest that political tension over the new constitution is a good sign. Creating a government is going to be tense, and what looks like a prelude to civil war may just be the first policy-driven campaign. I have doubts about the long-term feasibility of Iraq, but I would have had the same doubts about the freed colonies under the Articles of Confederation.

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    That’s cool. I’ll ask the question again next year.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Don’t forget to bring a cupcake with the appropriate number of candles, Temple.

    Dave

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    It’s such a light and frothy subject of mere academic importance isn’t it?

    People die because of bin Laden? Kill Kill Kill (?Iraqis?)

    People die because of our policies? Shrug. It’s for a good reason. What reason? We’re still working on that.

    Jingoist phrases such as “when the job is done” mean absolutely ZERO.

    What’s the job? Not sure.

    What’s done? Not sure.

    But when the job’s done it’ll be done and we’ll be victorious?

    And are we proud of being unsure? Hell yeah. It’s easier.

    Empty phrases. I can’t understand people being happy with them. I’m glad more and more questions are being raised by strong-minded politicians and strong minded military leaders, among others, so we as a country can be a little more sure. Too bad it’s more than two years in before we get to that “asking” point as a nation.

    A little too early for gloating.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Temple, you’re right that it’s not a happy bunny kind of situation. But that’s why you get answers like ‘when the job is done’, which is a code for a much more complex answer.

    This kind of situation isn’t answered with simplistic solutions like setting an arbitrary date. The situation is complex and so is the answer. I never said ‘when the job is done’, but that’s what my more complex answers like my check list basically boil down to. We leave when we achieve a level of stability which we think can sustain itself. That probably doesn’t mean the elimination of all terrorists or an absolutely perfect government, but it’s not something that can pinned down to a specific date – all it can be pinned down to are specific objectives or conditions.

    >>And are we proud of being unsure? Hell yeah. It’s easier. << It’s certainly wiser. We went into this war cocksure, and that proved to be a mistake. Being open minded, realistic and flexible is a hell of an improvement in attitude for the administration. Would you rather have them go back to thinking they know all the answers and being wrong again and again? I know I wouldn’t. BTW, sorry that I seem to be the only one taking your question seriously. Dave

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    >>And not getting beaten up on politically tends to be one of their top motivations.

    That’s not enough. Really. I’m not interested in what the present administration will do. We know what they will do by what the have done – in this respect.

    I’m asking what should they do?

    What do we the American people WANT. That there will not be one shared vision amongus is assured, but near all Americans want to be gone from Iraq at some point.

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    What do we the American people WANT. That there will not be one shared vision amongus is assured, but near all Americans want to be gone from Iraq at some point.

    What we WANT and what we should do, Temple, could be diametrically opposite. One of the biggest problems we face, in my honest opinion, is that we have no leaders remaining who can inspire us with their vision. We’re so busy trying to survive or keep up with the Joneses that we’ve forgotten how to dream.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    >>I’m asking what should they do?< < The easy thing to say is that they should send more troops, but that's not the real answer. The real answer to the current situation in Iraq is to take the gloves off and do all the things we've been accused of doing wrong to exterminate the terrorists, including indescriminate bombing, torture, summary executions and all sorts of other horrible things. That's the sensible solution. Doesn't mean we'll do any of it. >>What do we the American people WANT.<< Unrealistically clean and easy solutions, apparently. Dave

  • SFC Ski

    “>>What do we the American people WANT.<< Unrealistically clean and easy solutions, apparently.” That sums it up nicely.

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    I’m all for taking off the gloves in dealing with the terrorists. Indiscriminate bombing, torture, whatever. I’m sick of it and think it’s time we give back what they give, plain and simple. Sometimes a civilized people must be uncivilized in making responses because the enemy doesn’t understand any different.

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    But SFC – that idea predisposes that we know why we went in there and that the American people want to shed blood for the goal of Iraqi democracy.

    (And, to go back to one of my original points, declaring religious Shia law a “democracy” would be very hypocritical – though politically expedient)

    Soldiers are willing. Many people are willing but, respectfully, how do YOU define success?

    Thanks for commenting.

    SILAS ::: Agreed, to a point. That’s a whole tangent that is likely ore complex a question than the one I posed.

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    declaring religious Shia law a “democracy” would be very hypocritical – though politically expedient

    OK, if that’s what Iraqi people want let them do it with one proviso: that any Iraqi citizen who wishes to leave Iraq rather than be subject to Shia law be allowed to do so without penalty.

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    “Our declaring …” I should have said.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    I’d just like to hop in here to say that this there is a marvelously civil discussion about politics (and Iraq!) going on within this post.

    Ah…… the fresh breeze of relief.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    >>(And, to go back to one of my original points, declaring religious Shia law a “democracy” would be very hypocritical – though politically expedient)<< What the Iraqi Constitution does is actually kind of elegantly simple. It sets Sharia and Democracy up in direct opposition to each other and gives each of the equal weight – in the last version I saw anyway – so only laws that meet BOTH standards will be acceptable. This makes it hard to pass laws at all under the Constitutional test, and those which do pass ought to be pretty reasonable. Dave

  • Baronius

    Why we went in – to remove a thuggish political/military machine from power, making its citizens and its neighbors safer.

    That’s a broad answer to “why we went in”, and it ignores specifics, but I think that all those who have supported the war would accept that answer, and would have accepted it from the beginning.

    It spells out pretty cleanly what success would mean. 1 – Removal of Hussein. 2 – Removal of Baath military and political leadership. 3 – Creation of a new government that answers to the people.

    This has been a straightforward military endeavor which appears to be headed toward 100% success.

    When should we withdraw from Iraq? When we’re finished.

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    Baronius, Eighteen months later, are we any closer to being “finished’? … It has often been said I see things way ahead of most people, though, of course, I do not always agree. Timeline?

  • http://www.elitebloggers.com Dave Nalle

    Looks like you saw that comment way behind most people – like by 20 months.

    Dave