Thursday, December 08, 2005

Third Way

These days BushCheney is pushing hard to convince Americans that the Iraq War is essential to our security. Dick Cheney’s recent remarks at Fort Drum, New York are typical of that message. “Los[ing] our nerve and abandon[ing] our mission... would be unwise in the extreme....” In the meantime Democrats cannot seem to figure out what to do about the war. Average Americans who bear the costs of the war (along with Iraqis who suffer its direct impact) are conflicted about what to do. I know I am. I want us out. Not just to end American casualties bus also to end Iraqi ones as well. Withdrawal creates the possibility of increased sectarian violence and civil war but continued occupation does the same, only under different auspices. What to do?

That’s why I was intrigued to find a long and thoughtful article in the Fall edition of the Mideast Policy Council Journal by Gareth Porter entitled, “The Third Option in Iraq: A Responsible Exit Strategy”. A short summary risks oversimplifying a complex analysis so I recommend reading the entire article. Maybe I like the article because it mirrors my own thinking, which is the need to establish a real dialogue with the Sunni insurgents. Porter would accomplish this by using American leverage (our troops and military support) to push the Shi’a led government into extending genuine security guarantees to the Sunnis who, in turn, would offer the same to the Shi’ite minority that has been the victim of Sunni political violence throughout much of Iraq’s history.

Porter agrees with my analysis that at the moment, the US is taking sides in the civil war, supporting the Shi’as against the Sunnis. He proposes that the US encourage (force?) the Shi’as into the dialogue necessary to resolve their political differences, the primary one being the control of state violence in the post occupation government. Both sides have a strong interest in not becoming victims of the other and only a genuine reconciliation will do that. In its absence, Americans can expect a long war against a persistent, resolute foe or a humiliating exit from Iraq.

Juan Cole also has an interesting review of the political debate over the war. He defines “winning” as avoiding an all-out civil war (as opposed to the low intensity one now occurring). I would prefer that the US get the hell out of Iraq sooner rather than later but I am not comfortable with simply abandoning Iraq to the warring factions unleashed by our invasion. The US should have never, never invaded Iraq. But now that we are there, just walking away would be as much of a crime as the invasion. That’s why the Porter article appeals to me; it offers a reasonable alternative to the two extremes. In the end, the civil war may be unavoidable and America will just have to bear responsibility for its role in Iraq. In the meantime, I still hope exists for a political solution that ends the bloodshed.

However the war ends, the United States owes Iraq big time. I’m talking reparations to rebuild the damage and destruction we have inflicted on that nation and its people since 2003. The US will not call it reparations because that would imply responsibility for harm. But whatever the term, Iraqis are entitled to compensation to rebuild what we have destroyed. I hope we will do the right thing.

A final note. I am not consistent in my ideas for ending the Iraq war. Some days I just want us to pull out and leave Iraq to the Iraqis to deal with the consequences come what may. Most days, however, I want us to withdraw without leaving a bloodbath or a failed state in our wake. My inconsistency reflects a thinking mind. Unlike BushCheney, who has all the answers (even if they are wrong), I recognize my limitations and try to think through them. Readers looking for concrete certainty can look elsewhere. What is not inconsistent in my thinking is recognizing that this war is wrong and a stain on America’s honor. That hasn’t changed in two and a half years. But I do admit to uncertainty when it comes to ideas for ending the dishonor.


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