Leaving Iraq

In Misc. on October 14, 2006 at 10:22 am

I want to let everyone know that there is a fantastic article in the new Harper’s magazine, entitled, “The way out of war: A Blueprint for Leaving Iraq Now.” by George S. McGovern (U.N global ambassador on hunger, dem presidential candidate, ’72) and William R. Polk (Founder-director Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University of Chicago). I cannot get a link to the Harper’s page, but the article is also available here.

It begins as follows:

Staying in Iraq not an option. Many Americans who were among the most eager to invade Iraq now urge that we find a way out. These Americans include not only civilian “strategists” and other “hawks” but also senior military commanders and, perhaps most fervently, combat soldiers. Even some of those Iraqis regarded by our senior officials as the most pro-American are determined now to see American military personnel leave their country. Polls show that as few as 2 percent of Iraqis consider Americans to be liberators. This is the reality of the situation in Iraq. We must acknowledge the Iraqis’ right to ask us to leave, and we should set a firm date by which to do so.

We suggest that phased withdrawal should begin on or before December 31, 2006, with the promise to make every effort to complete it by June 30, 2007.

Let us be clear: there will be some damage. This is inevitable no matter what we do. At the end of every insurgency we have studied, there was a certain amount of chaos as the participants sought to establish a new civic order. This predictable turmoil has given rise to the argument, still being put forward by die-hard hawks, that Americans must, in President Bush’s phrase, “stay the course.” The argument is false. When a driver is on the wrong road and headed for an abyss, it is a bad idea to “stay the course.” A nation afflicted with a failing and costly policy is not well served by those calling for more of the same, and it is a poor idea to think that we can accomplish in the future what we are failing to accomplish in the present. We are as powerless to prevent the turmoil that will ensue when we withdraw as we have been to stop the insurgency. But we will have removed a major cause of the insurgency once we have withdrawn. Moreover, there are ways in which we can be helpful to the Iraqis–and protect our own interests–by ameliorating the underlying conditions and smoothing the edges of conflict. The first of these would be a “bridging” effort between the occupation and complete independence.

It is Completely worth your time to read about this “bridging” effort, and the conflict-smoothing efforts the authors recommend – it is the meat of the article, and it will open your eyes about the possible alternatives to what we’re doing now. Its like reading a method for peace, captured in a 10-page article. The author’s suggestions represent a drastically different approach to global relations, and if one takes their spirit to heart, it will lead to active brainstorming on more practical measures of the same kind.
Time is not wasted on polemics; the rest of the article is full of the financial and diplomatic benefits of withdrawing, making it a testament to the practicality of letting go of Iraq. I haven’t seen writing on Iraq that makes as much sense anywhere.


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