Will Anyone Be Convinced?

Frederick W. Kagan mounts a spirited defense of maintaining our troop commitment to Iraq, presumably part of the battlefield preparation for Gen. Petraeus’s upcoming testimony in Washington. The article is long and detailed—he takes on more than a dozen of the arguments of the immediate withdrawalniks and answers them in turn. Unfortunately, I think it’s a waste of pixels.

Will anyone be convinced? I believe that practically everybody has already made up their minds and at this point relatively few will respond to even the most articulate, soundest, and well-founded arguments. It is now a religious dispute.

Fortunately, it doesn’t look as though any prospective president will withdraw our forces completely from Iraq. No candidate is running on that platform (note in statements the words “combat brigades”, a little over half of our forces in Iraq) and I doubt that any sitting president will be willing to run the risk of withdrawing from Iraq and having things go seriously awry.

If you take the idea that a president will withdraw our troops from Iraq and re-insert them if circumstances warrant seriously, try this exercise. Imagine you’re the president of the United States. Imagine you’ve withdrawn our forces from Iraq. Now imagine you’re standing at a podium preparing to announce that you’re going to send our forces back to Iraq. I can’t imagine myself doing that and I don’t think any prospective president can, either. The questions practically ask themselves. “Were you wrong then or are you wrong now?” leaps to mind.

4 comments… add one
  • Thomas Jackson Link

    Isn’t that what was said about Vietnam? When you advocate defeat I believe its logical that those parties will take the necessary actions to achieve it.

  • Jay Link


    Take a look at today’s http://juancole.com.

    I always enjoy your blog.

    Best wishes,

  • Larry Link

    I saw Retired General Barry McCaffrey on CSPAN this weekend, and I’ve been trying to locate a transcript but he also believes we need to leave Irag.

    One of his comments was that even another military dictator would be better
    than the disfunctional government now in Irag.

    It is up to the Iragy people now to get this right for themselves..

  • Jay-

    While I’m glad that Dr. Cole appreciates what Gen. Petraeus has accomplished, I’m well aware of the argument that if we removed our troops from Iraq that it would force reconciliation. In the blogosphere that argument has been advanced most strongly be Marc Lynch, AKA Abu Aardvark, a Middle East scholar.

    I think the argument rests on two notions of which I’m skeptical. The first is the Iraqi insurgency is primarily fighting the American occupation and the second is that we’d return to restore the peace if things got out of hand.

    I believe that the first is based on wishful thinking and rests on no credible theory either of human nature or of events in Iraq. If the insurgency were primarily against Americans, our troops would be the primary target. They’re not. Occasionally, they’re targets of opportunity but the primary targets are other Iraqis. You need only look at the civilian death statistics to conclude that.

    The second, also based on wishful thinking, rests on no credible view of American behavior or experience (as I noted in the post above).

    We are not the Syrians. We have no territorial interest in Iraq. We’re not interested in incorporating Iraq into a “Greater United States”. And the Iraqis are not the Lebanese. They’re far more divided.

    I wish with all my heart that if we just left everything would be sweetness and light in Iraq but my head tells me that’s just not the case. If we left Iraq in its present state what I believe would be likely to ensue would make the carnage of 2006 and early 2007 look like minor inconvenience and the neighbors (Turkey, Syria, the KSA, and Iran) would be sorely tempted to intervene to keep the mess from spreading into their territories.

    I know that some think that the loss to Iraqis and the loss to American interests that would represent are worth our wiping the dusk of Iraq from our boots and the reduced loss of the lives of American soldiers. I disagree.

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