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An indecent proposal?

10/22/2003

The U.S. faces a number of constraints in Iraq. The most obvious is that, short of radical measures, we will forced to reduce our troop presence sharply over the next several months. Current levels are simply unsustainable.

Indeed, we'll be lucky if we're able to have half the troops in Iraq that we do now by next spring. Watch the administration spin force reductions as a choice freely undertaken -- in fact, they are struggling as hard as they can to sustain present levels.

At the same time, the shootings and bombings have now spread beyond the "Sunni triangle" -- when was the last time you even heard that term used? -- to the north and south.

Put these two problems together. The fighting is spreading, and our ability to contend with it is only going to wane in the coming months. And no, the New and Improved Iraqi Army won't do the heavy lifting for us any more than the South Vietnamese Army did, or the South Lebanon Army did for Israel. The outlook is quite grim, really, short of some deus ex machina.

On top of that, Iraqi society is a shambles. It's a failed state if there ever was one. And now that the WMD have proven fictional, Bush looks less inclined than ever to give up on his secondary goal of building a democracy. But with the resources and timeframe we are faced with, it's hopeless. The place will either be governed by a military dictatorship or in a state of civil war after we leave; if not on the first day, then before the first few months or so are out. Measured against the U.S. vision of a glorious new Middle East, it's a ghastly and humiliating prospect.

Now, almost nobody seems willing to face up to this. Both the Administration and its opponents propose muddling through without any noticeable game plan or strategy for a "soft landing." This is the "go down swinging" school, whether its adherents recognize it or not. Just a very few voices are disregarding the softness or hardness of the landing and just saying that it's time to give up and go now -- the strategy expert Edward Luttwak comes to mind. But if you look at the polls, that is increasingly the public's preferred option. It's just not getting a lot of expression elsewhere.

Yet I do not share this view. The US still has an opportunity to make some positive contribution to the outcome in Iraq, if we are willing to swallow our pride. I would suggest taking a middle path before pressure for swift withdrawal solidifies to the point that nothing can be achieved. Specifically, if we must have a military dictatorship, let's go get the best one that American blood and treasure can buy. Let's make that the goal.

Seriously. Just building a government that can hold the country together and has some basic respect for the citizenry within a couple of years would be quite an accomplishment under the circumstances. So let's moderate our goals, and then pour every resource we can think of into achieving something solid but less than epoch-making. For those of you watching the World Series, I'll put it this way: instead of swinging for the fences against Roger Clemens, let's just see if we can't grit our teeth, choke up on the bat, get a base hit, and hopefully drive in a run or two.

After all, $87 billion is nothing, really, as long as you have a worthwhile and achievable goal. But until you have an achievable goal, ten bucks may be too much.

Analyst

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by Analyst @ 07:58 AM CST [Link]

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Replies: 2 comments

The United States is facing a serious dilemma in Iraq. The question before the United States is whether staying in Iraq or leaving it is the more advantageous option for the national security of the United States.

Frankly, the reasons for the US invasion of Iraq are no longer relevant. They stopped being relevant the moment the United States Marines stepped foot on Iraqi soil.

From the point of view of the United States government, the wishes and needs of the Iraqi population are only relevant as far as they contribute or harm the national security of the United States. Though this might not sound terribly humane, the ultimate intention of the US government is to provide security and a good lifestyle to its own people regardless of the consequences on others. This is in fact one of the crucial points in the nature of democracies.

Now, what is the dilemma? The United States has an interest in creating stability in the Middle East. On the other hand it is not clear whether its presence in Iraq is contributing to such a goal. However, neither does leaving Iraq appear to be an option that would increase the stability in the region.

At the same time the United States has a reputation in the region and in the world for having no staying power and to run in the face of small but continuous casualties when there is no clear moralistic objective to be attained. The statements made by Islamic militants often mention three events to prove their assertions that Americans are weak; Lebanon and Somalia. A withdrawal from Iraq would add one more event to this list.

What causes Islamic fighters to go to Iraq or Afghanistan and fight against us? The belief that they will win. It is true that some would be there regardless, purely due to religious fanaticism, however as the Islamic militants themselves are using the weakness of the United States as a selling point to their recruits, it would seem reasonable to believe that many recruits come to Iraq with the goal of beating the United States. A withdrawal from Iraq would only strengthen their case and the next time the US intervenes anywhere in the world (and it will), it will encounter more resistance and more terrorism.

There is no easy solution to this problem, however as much as it appears to me that staying and rebuilding Iraq is the right choice, one must remember that it is unlikely that the US will be able to stay in Iraq for the long-term because of the lack of support from back home in the US for such an effort. If this will be the case within a couple of years it makes perfect sense to start making plans to withdraw now. This would confirm the suspicions of the terrorists about the lack of American staying power, but at the same time it would be folly to attempt to disprove this to the terrorists, since in all honesty the terrorists are correct. The United States has no staying power.

BR.

Posted by BR @ 10/22/2003 04:49 PM CST

It seems to me that South Vietnamese troops did fight well. It is not so sure, they couldn't have won at least a standstill if the American Congress had not forbidden to go on furnishing them with munitions and spare parts for their weapons.

If America leaves, it shall have to fight in a lot of elsewhere because from Russia to Chily and Australia, its will shall ahve lost any credibility. The bully on the school playground who retreats when confronted.

As an European, I don't like it really.

Also, America's only justification remaining for the invasion is the theory of democracy domino. If it does only put in place an autocratic but friendly regim, it shall state clearly what it does mean by democracy.

America shouldn't have gone in but now, it is in, options are quite limited.

Posted by Paul @ 10/26/2003 07:26 PM CST


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