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.
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.
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