A trio of progressive foreign policy experts, John Podesta, Ray Takeyh and Lawrence J. Korb, make their case for withdrawing our forces from Iraq. Political progress isn’t fast enough:
Yet even despite the loss of nearly 1,000 American lives and the expenditure of $150 billion, the surge has failed in its stated purpose: providing the Iraqi government with the breathing space to pass the 18 legislative benchmarks the Bush administration called vital to political reconciliation. To date it has passed only four.
The present U. S. strategy in Iraq is self-defeating:
Moreover, as part of the surge, the administration has further undermined Iraq’s government by providing arms and money to Sunni insurgent groups even though they have not pledged loyalty to Baghdad.
Things might not turn out as bleakly as some have suggested if we do withdraw:
The prevailing doomsday scenario suggests that an American departure would lead to genocide and mayhem. But is that true? Iraq today belongs to Iraqis; it is an ancient civilization with its own norms and tendencies. It is entirely possible that in the absence of a cumbersome and clumsy American occupation, Iraqis will make their own bargains and compacts, heading off the genocide that many seem to anticipate.
Our presence in Iraq reduces our alternatives for dealing with other pressing problems:
The strategic necessities of ending the war have never been more compelling. In today’s Middle East, America is neither liked nor respected. Iran flaunts its nuclear ambitions, confident that a bogged-down Washington has limited options but to concede to its mounting infractions. Afghanistan is rapidly descending into a Taliban-dominated state as the Bush administration responds only with plaintive complaints about NATO’s lack of resolution. And the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is nowhere near resolution.
They’d rather spend the money on other things:
A Democratic president would also be wise to realize that perpetuating the war conflicts with a robust domestic agenda. At a time of mounting deficits, when we are spending about $10 billion a month in Iraq, issues such as reforming the health-care system and repairing the national infrastructure are likely to remain neglected. The United States has too many national priorities that cannot be realized if yet another beleaguered administration prolongs this costly and unpopular war.
I’m having a little difficulty in relating their means to their ends. For example, I don’t see how the U. S. withdrawing its forces from Iraq will increase the rapidity with which the present Iraqi national government is able to hammer out political agreements or shore up the Iraqi national government.
It’s possible that removing our forces from Iraq would give us additional alternatives in facing down a nuclear-armed Iran since we wouldn’t have all those U. S. soldiers in easy striking distance of an Iranian attack. But we’d still have all those large bases and ships that will be within harm’s way. Unless they also advocate withdrawing those, would we really have more options than we do now? I’d like to see them flesh this argument out a little more for me.
Is there a reason to believe that we’d be spending more on national infrastructure but for our troops in Iraq? The state of Minnesota, a relatively prosperous one, clearly wasn’t willing to spend enough to keep its bridges from falling down. It’s unclear to me how removing our forces from Iraq will convince the citizens of Minnesota to spend more on their own infrastructure nor that it will convince the people of California, Texas, Florida, or New York to spend more on Minnesota’s infrastructure. I’d like to see them flesh this one out a little more, too.
The one incontrovertible fact about the situation in Iraq is that fewer innocent Iraqis are dying there now (not to mention fewer of our own soldiers) than were six months ago or a year ago. I don’t know whether that’s post hoc propter hoc, the result of something we’re doing, or the result of something the Iraqis are doing but I think that it’s a good thing and I don’t want things to go back to the way they were before. But that’s a risk that I guess Messrs. Podesta, Tayekh, and Korb are willing to take.