I started this off as a comment to Dave’s post, but I got rather long winded, so I decided to write a dueling banjo post.
My position is that the only way to provide any semblance of a stable Iraq is to demand immediate withdrawal. In place of the pottery barn rule I am invoking the Humpty Dumpty rule. If you run over a piece of pottery or an egg with a tank, you can’t put it back together again. Just as withdrawal was the only path to peace in Vietnam, withdrawal from Iraq is the only path to peace in the Middle East. Even if we demand an immediate withdrawal, a realistic withdrawal plan will not happen unless Bush is impeached or a Democratic President is elected in 2008.
Nobody thinks the United States can withdraw in less than two years. Three or four years is probably a more realistic time frame. Since Bush and the Theocons have no intention of ever withdrawing, a Democratic President in 2008 will have to start from scratch and develop a withdrawal plan. That will take at least a year and maybe more. Unless Bush is impeached the minimum length of Bush’s Iraq war is already pretty much locked in at eight or nine years.
The longer Bush and the Theocons are allowed to completely ignore the basic question of what their goal is, aside from building Democracy, the more likely Bush’s Iraq war will extend into double digits. Rumsfield identified the problem that the Theocons intentionally established. How do you accomplish a goal that has no measureable metrics? Bush and the Theocons have not been failing to plan, they have been planning to fail. They never had any intention of leaving Iraq. Their unstated goal has always been a garrison state similar to South Korea.
Now for my counter argument. The first step in rebutting any argument is examining the assumptions it is based on. Starting at the top and working down:
America leaving Iraq now means leaving the people and the oil there under the control of the Islamic Republic that arises after we leave.
As the recent election in Iran demonstrates, leaving in fifteen years may also mean leaving the people and the oil there under the control of the Islamic Republic that arises after we leave. Continuing an immoral and illegal war may very well make it more likely that Iraq reverts to an Islamic Republic. How does continuing the war make an Islamic Republic any less likely?
leaving Iraq now likely means ever-expanding terrorist war against us —
According to Peter Goss the Iraq war is a better training ground for terrorists than the Afghanistan war was. Since the Afghanistan war against Russia provided the training for Al Qaida, the logical conclusion is that staying in Iraq means an ever-expanding terrorist war against us.
If we leave, what happens to the people in Iraq? Think about what an Islamic Republic means for the women there. Then think about what that means to US. Leaving could mean that the people who are driving bombs into crowds are likely to end up running the country. We will leave behind millions of people who hate us (many hating us for leaving after starting what we started there), but who will then have the resources of an oil-rich nation at their disposal.
The only thing continuing Bush’s Iraq war forestalls is a Sunni government. Recent reports indicate that a Shiite government is capable of being every bit as repressive as Saddam was. Millions of people already hate us enough to want to blow up every American in sight. Staying will only increase the resistance, multiply the number of terrorists and provide them a superior training ground in urban guerilla tactics. When they run out of Americans to practice their new skills on, either before we leave because we manage to harden the green zone or after we withdraw, they are likely to utilize their new skills on targets in Europe and America.
Unless we install a puppet government that does not have popular support, the Iraqi government is likely to join OPEC and sell their oil exactly the same way Saddam did. Whether Iraq sells their oil to China or to the United States, neither the total supply of oil or the price will be affected. The primary factors that affect the price of a barrel of oil are the total monthly supply that OPEC delivers and the total world wide demand for that oil. The price of oil gets indirect assistance from market manipulation by Big Oil of distribution channels and refinery capacity. Whether we leave now or in fifteen years is not likely to affect the equation and how the market will be affected is sheer speculation.
I suggest we take Bush out of our thoughts for a minute and think about where Iraq is today, and what needs to be done to bring real peace.
I have thought about it and concluded that nothing the United States can do will bring real peace to an area of the world that has not known real peace for centuries. How is a white Christian nation going to solve religious, tribal and cultural conflicts that preceed the Crusades?
I think that restoring order, if done right, would mean much LESS violence than we are seeing now. It means having enough people there to help a legitimate government start tracking down and jailing the people who are setting off bombs, which would enable Iraq to start building a real police and justice system.
The only way of restoring order in Iraq may very well be a Shiite tyrant just as bad as Saddam. Is there any evidence that in the next fifteen or twenty years we can resolve the deep seated differences that created Saddam in the first place? Iraq had a real police and justice system under Saddam. The next police and justice system is more likely than not going to be a mirror image of the one we dismantled.
We broke it, we HAVE TO fix it. Even if it means restoring a draft. It would certainly be nice if we could only draft the kids of people who voted FOR this war.
I recall someone saying “we have to deal with things as they are, not as we wish them to be.” A draft is even more unpopular than Bush’s Iraq war. The great thing about a voluntary military is that it makes it impossible to continue a war that the American people do not support. Hopefully, this will be a stark reminder to Congress and the President when some fool wants to invade another country thirty years from now, but I doubt it.
The most important false assumption that the war was based on is that the Iraqi people are less patriotic, less nationalistic and less religious than Americans. That has clearly proven false. The Iraqi people hate Americans for invading their country as much as we would hate Muslims for invading America. America has very shallow support from the factions that we are putting into power. For example, if we do not give the oil city of Kirkurk to the Kurds, they will prove to be very uncertain and troublesome allies. The inherent problem of conflict between Turkey and the Kurds has been ignored, but it will not go away. Until we start focusing on an exit strategy, the Kurdish problem will continue to be ignored.
That brings me back to the fundamental question of how America develops an exit strategy that leads to maximum social stability possible under current conditions. Without a demand for an immediate exit strategy Bush and the Theocons will continue their plan for Iraq to fail. It was never their intention to leave Iraq following a military victory. Only by focusing on the earliest possible exit strategy will anyone even begin to develop an exit strategy.
I believe that in Rumsfield’s testimony to Congress he mentioned “six, eight or twelve years.” Condi has mentioned a “generational war,” which I presume means twenty or thirty years. Bush and the Theocons have no intention of implementing or even discussing an exit strategy. It is very clear that nothing and nobody can make them discuss an exit strategy.
Even after a U.S. exit strategy is agreed on, I don’t think two years is a pragmatic time frame for complete withdrawal. it may not be realistically possible in less than three or four years even if Bush agreed to start planning for immediate withdrawal today. My prediction for the earliest possible date for final withdrawal of troops is 2012, which puts Bush’s Iraq war at nine years minimum.
Demanding an immediate withdrawal is the only way to make sure that Bush’s Iraq war does not exceed the fifteen years that America spent to absolutely no avail in Vietnam. Withdrawing from Vietnam resulted in devastating collateral consequences to the entire region of Southeast Asia. Ben Stein’s analysis to the contrary, the actualy cause of those consequences was not American withdrawal, but the Vietnam war itself. The logic of Ben Stein’s analysis is that the damage of a car wreck is caused by an out of control car finally coming to a halt.
Vietnam is better off than if we had continued bombing and killing North Vietnamese people. Iraq will be better off the sooner we stop killing Iraqi people and the sooner we stop training a whole new generation of terrorists.