No (Good) Exit
Probably the greatest obstacle to withdrawing American forces from Iraq is potential for chaos and civil war that will likely ensue in our wake. Notwithstanding the fact that even our own commanders admit that foreign troops are a catalyst for the insurgency (see here and here), sectarian differences combined with militias loyal to sectarian leaders create the real potential for continued mayhem in Iraq. Not that US troops are really able to do much when the groups clash. During the violence that followed the bombing of the Askaria Mosque in February American forces stayed pretty much on the sidelines while the various sides slaughtered each other.
But simply pulling our forces out and leaving the Iraqis to whatever fate awaits them is irresponsible at best and immoral at worst. We opened this Pandora’s Box and are responsible for the consequences, so America cannot simply just leave. At the same time, it is very clear we cannot stay despite BushCheney’s repeated vows to that effect.
That’s why I find the absence of real diplomacy, seeking cooperation and assistance from nations with experience and credibility in the region to craft a solution so distressing. Clearly, America cannot stabilize Iraq on its own. Yet we have not seriously sought to build a framework that would create the conditions that would allow us to exit Iraq with anything resembling honor. In the absence of such effort, we are stuck and our casualties mount.
John Kerry made this point very clear recently when he compared the absence of diplomatic efforts in Iraq to Henry Kissinger and James Baker’s efforts in previous wars.
...[The a]bsence of legitimate diplomacy in this is absolutely astounding to me. You know, when you look at what former Secretary Henry Kissinger did night after night, day after day, back and forth in an airplane, struggling to be able to get people to come to agreement around the table. You look at what former Secretary Jim Baker did, traveling all over the world, working with countries, pulling people together around the idea. I don't even see deputy assistant secretaries, other people out there at a level working other countries to try to a resolution for this, and there are Sunni neighbors all around who could all play a more significant role. The Arab league could play a more significant role. The United Nations could play a more significant role. What are we doing? Just drifting day after day after day....(emphasis mine)
Of course, one of the primary reasons–probably the main reason–that no other nation will join our effort is the BushCheney’s unwillingness to recognize policy options other than his own. “With us or against us,” he said famously in 2002 and I see little evidence that he has changed. Oh sure, Condoleeza Rice jets about meeting with world leaders but that is largely for show or to bully them to go along with policy already decided in
Washington. This administration does not listen, does not discuss. It demands. Nor is it willing to acknowledge interests and options other than its own. Building any kind of coalition on those terms is next to impossible.
So the question comes down to what do I do, as an American, to seek an honorable solution to the Iraq quagmire, a solution that enables us to stand down our forces without leaving Iraqis at the mercy of sectarian murderers. In the end, I don’t see any good solutions, only ones that offer slim hope. Real diplomacy that creates a sustainable coalition that can credibly support Iraqis building a government that transcends the centrifugal forces that divide theme is one option. The other is John Kerry’s resolution setting deadlines to force the Iraqis to come to agreement on their government.
I hate to end on a negative note but I don’t have much hope that either will come to pass. Powerful as the United States may be, that power has real limits in the face of Iraq’s history and culture. BushCheney blindly and arrogantly led this America into The Big Muddy. We’ll be lucky not to drown.
All of which makes me ask, “Why is BushCheney threatening to attack Iran?” Is he THAT incapable of learning? Or is he really trying to lead us into Armageddon?