What should we do in Iraq? What’s your position?”
Well imaginary email person, I favor staying the course for a few more years until (1) the job is done (a stable semi-Democracy exists) or (2) the Iraqis have the means (political [2a] and/or military [2b]) to kick us out/ask us to leave.
Since most people would agree that there is a low chance of (1) actually occurring, I’ll address the probability of (2a and 2b).
2a: The day the Iraqi public turns against us in a large and measurable way (whether that be legislative decrees or huge nationwide street protests) it will be time to leave. At that point, we will be an unwanted occupier (I’d argue that we aren’t quite to that level today, since a great majority of the Iraqi government supports us. The Kurdish region and many Shiite reegions support us as well). However, the very fact that Iraq was able to show this kind of political unity could be good for their future. If a unified political coalition demanded our withdrawal, and we complied, this would probably give that coalition popular legitimacy. I imagine that, as the Iraqis train more and more soldiers and withdrawal becomes a real possibility, opportunistic Iraqi politicians will begin to clamor for the opportunity to be the “hero that gave America the boot and saved Iraq!” America should let this happen. It’s in our interests.
2b: Should the insurgency grow to a size that allows them to start inflicting larger numbers of casualties on our troops (today’s number is significant, but very small), then it’s simple: we lose, we go home.
I’d hate to lose. I’m not sure what “message” that would send the terrorists (Dick Cheney tends to spend his days and nights worrying about how the terrorists will interpret our actions). Maybe the message would be: “If the Americans invade a Muslim country, we must organize a resistance to blow as many of them up as possible. Then they will leave! Muhahahaha!” I don’t know. But I don’t mind sending them that message, since (a) the terrorists already knew that this was an effective strategy and (b) I doubt we’ll be invading any Muslim countries in the near future.
I hate to end this post without addressing the “withdraw now” or “timetable” arguments. I’ll address the serious “withdraw now” argument, (pull out most troops over a 6 month period, ala John Murtha) not the crazy “withdraw now” argument (pull out troops in 5 minutes, establish Department of Peace, send Bush to Hague, arrest all oil company CEOs who try to make a profit, name child “Moonbeam”).
John Murtha’s point is that if we’re doing more harm than good in Iraq, we’d might as well pull out. This is based on the theory that the presence of our soldiers (as an unwanted occupying force) flares up more violence than the presence of our soldiers (as a policing force) prevents. I’m skeptical about this. If we weren’t there, I still think you’d have violence - just a different kind, between factions instead of between insurgents and US troops.
As far as timetables go - I really don’t see the point, other than to judge our progress. Maybe that’s not a bad reason to set loose amendable timetables. If Bush announces, “We will remove 50,000 troops by January of 2006 and replace those troops with homegrown Iraqi forces”, this will put pressure on the US military to actually accomplish this worthy goal. The public will then demand that our leaders either accomplish their stated goal, or face harsh scrutiny. Sounds reasonable enough for me.