Another View On Iraq

Another View On Iraq


This was left in the comments section of my post “Go Big. Go Long. Go Home.“…

Of the objectives for going to war in Iraq, all have been accomplished, leaving only two. First, to leverage the war and the regime change as a positive influence and force for change in the region. Second, to liberate the people of Iraq and help them achieve both peace and freedom.

There are three ways that the first objective could be accomplished – (1) by retaining a significant military presence in Iraq indefinitely; (2) by assisting the Iraqi government in achieving stable, functional, America-friendly government with orderly succession and a no more than tolerable level of violence; or (3) complete military withdrawal following the completion of major military operations and the capture of Saddam. The deadline for (3) is past – any withdrawal now or in the future which does not leave behind a stable, functional, America-friendly Iraqi government will appear to demonstrate that the US military and US policy have been defeated, with the resultant failure of this objective.

The second goal is humanitarian and stems from values-based policy rather than national interest. It may be argued that as the Iraq war has caused havoc and change for the Iraqi people as a side effect of the accomplishment of goals of US national interest, the US government owes the Iraqi people a debt which can only truly be discharged by assisting them in their struggle to achieve a free and peaceful society. This of course presupposes that the majority of Iraqis desires a free and peaceful society, but it appears that most do. This objective could only have been achieved by ways (1) and (2) above – way (3) would have left the Iraqis to pick up the pieces by themselves, or perhaps with the assistance of humanitarian agencies.

Ways (1) and (2) both require of the US government a significant military commitment, and more than that, a significant commitment of will, that is, a willingness to do the hard yards and stay for a medium to long term, a minimum of 2 more years and probably rather more.

The question is whether the US government, and the US electorate, considers either way (1) or (2) to be worth the trouble. Either way will mean more blood and treasure expended for no obvious or short-term gain. Quitting on efforts to achieve the first goal will mean bigger problems for the US and its allies in the future, though how big and how far away is debatable, and democracies are notoriously short-sighted in their forward planning. Quitting on efforts to achieve the second goal will just mean lots of dead and maimed Iraqis, as well as a domestic Iraqi outcome that will be determined by whichever group emerges as the strongest and most ruthless combatant.

With specific regard to the use of withdrawal, whether phased or set to a timetable or all at once, as a stimulus to Iraqi officials and institutions to become more capable, I rather suspect that such an ominous development would instead result in an exodus from Iraq of many, perhaps most, of the Iraqis who hold office or administer institutions, along with their families and assets. What would remain would be those who would rather fight, those who would rather die, those who lack the resources to flee, and those who hope it will all somehow turn out all right.


  • ascap_scab

    *The deadline for (3) is past – any withdrawal now or in the future which does not leave behind a stable, functional, America-friendly Iraqi government will appear to demonstrate that the US military and US policy have been defeated, with the resultant failure of this objective.*

    Your commenter seems to think America will have an indefinite time to do what he wants America to do and that the landscape can only get better if we remain. S/he doesn’t envision things getting worse if we stay. Unfortunately, I think your commenter is making bad assumptions. I think things can get worse if we stay.

    The Iraqi people have said we are no longer helping the situation and two-thirds want us gone within a year. So far, the sectarian violence is mostly directed at each other. By this time next year, I think that violence will mostly be directed at us. We may soon look back with fond memories when we were only losing 100 soldiers per month.

    Second, The Iraqi leaders are meeting with Iran and Syria soon. The Iraqi leaders will soon have to act to expel us so that they do not look like puppets of America.

    Third, the Kurdish north has mostly been off the radar, but soon tensions between the Kurds and Turkey may put America in the middle of a shooting war there.

    Fourth, what happens if a crisis happens elsewhere in the world?? ALL of our military strength is tied up in Iraq and Afghanistan. What will we respond with if, say, Musharrif is overthrown by his own Taliban/ISI, or Lil’ Kim gets frisky with SK, or something else??

    Fifth, our own military (Gen. James Conway, USMC) is now saying we can’t sustain this war without significant commitments of new troops and treasure. In short, who is going to stay there to “complete the job”, your commenter and what army??

    It was folly to go into Iraq when Saddam was in a box and Osama (remember him??) was still on the loose. It’s now folly to stay in Iraq when we are not wanted, our military is breaking, and when things CAN get WORSE. WMDs — Mission Accomplished!! Saddam — Mission Accomplished!! Democracy established — Mission Accomplished!! There is nothing left to win and everything to lose. It’s time to leave.

  • Armando R
  • grognard

    A new Iraqi poll shows most Shiites want us out and a majority now says it’s OK to kill Americans. The Interior ministry is Shiite dominated, and apparently either turning a blind eye to the Shiite death squads or even actively assisting them. These two facts could possibly translate into attacks on our supply lines to Baghdad, and keeping those lines open would require the troops now keeping a lid on sectarian violence in the major cities. If the American public is to support a longer stay in Iraq there would have to be benchmarks in reducing the level of violence. But look at what we would have to do, we need to shut down and drastically overhaul the Interior Ministry, causing friction between the Shiites and the US. A shutdown would be opposed by the Shiites and give them the excuse to ask us to leave, and open us to attacks in order to get the point across. The only outcome I see is an escalation of violence and the American public seeing the benchmarks not being achieved and deciding to get out.

  • Blakenator

    Sadly, everyone debates this as if it were an academic exercise rather than real people suffering. There will never be the “happy ending” Americans want. I remember similar arguments during the mistake that was our Viet Nam adventure. The one lesson we can take from that is when you finally accept that you have no control over the outcome, get the hell out.