My Exit Strategy
Iraq war supporters constantly challenge critics to offer solutions to BushCheney’s fiasco in that unfortunate country. Not that most of these apologists are interested in any new ideas or thoughtful discussion; they simply want a target that they can, in turn, demonize. Any alternatives are immediately attacked and savaged, leaving the current policies more or less in place. This strategy works because few Americans are willing to admit that this nation has truly fucked up in Iraq. There are simply no good alternatives. Iraq is screwed. America is screwed. All we can hope for at this point is that the final deal will not be too horribly catastrophic.
BushCheney insists that the cause is not lost. Of course he does. To do otherwise would subject him to the opprobrium he has so richly earned. But why will I believe that he is any more competent now than he was in 2003 when he arrogantly plunged this nation into an illegal war in Iraq. Turning point after tipping point after new initiative has all come to naught. Nothing BushCheney can do or say will convince me that another three, six or however many more months of pursuing a “clear and unchanging strategy” will produce any results different from what we have already seen.
Putting my mouth where my money is, I offer my own solution. Like any option for Iraq, it sucks, will lead to more carnage and leaves America’s reputation in tatters. I don’t think any policy can avoid that. What my suggestion does , however, is remove the occupation force and leave Iraq to the Iraqis, which is what they wanted all along. That sentiment is obvious in Anthony Shadid’s account of the American invasion and its aftermath, Night Draws Near. That sentiment is echoed by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, author of Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone in this interview:
I don't believe the mess we're seeing now was inevitable. Had fewer bad decisions been made, and had the appropriate resources been brought to bear, Iraq would be a fundamentally different place, one that is a lot more stable and secure. I don't believe we could have prevented an insurgency -- there always would have been one, led by zealots who saw no room for compromise. There always would have been some degree of sectarian conflict. But it didn't have to be this bad. It's hard to remember now, but we did have a window of opportunity in the weeks and months immediately following the fall of Saddam's government. But instead of listening to the Iraqi people, and marshaling the appropriate resources to reconstruct the country, the CPA squandered that opportunity by pursuing irrelevant policies and preventing Iraqi leaders from exercising any real governing authority. (emphasis added)
What would I do? I would withdraw American forces over the next six to nine months. I would work with the elected Iraqi government to seek international assistance, including Iraq’s neighbors Syria, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to stabilize the nation and prevent the chaos from spilling across the greater Middle East. I would ask Congress to appropriate substantial reconstruction aid to be administered by the Iraqis under the guidance of an international oversight body. I would ask Congress to pass a resolution apologizing to the Iraqi people for wrecking their country.
Please note that my policy would not necessarily prevent civil war in Iraq. It’s based primarily on the hope that Iraqis, left to their own devices, would back away from that disaster but it offers no guarantees. Civil war may well ensure; that may be the only way the contending factions can come to terms with each other. Experience has shown that US forces are unable to prevent the contending factions from killing each other. I wish it were otherwise but it is not. That is the consequence of our very poorly executed operation to remove Saddam Hussein from power. There’s a reason why he lasted so long–everyone knew that without a strong central government Iraq would descend into chaos. The US removed that central government without a plan to create anything remotely capable of governing Iraq after Saddam Hussein. What the world has seen in the past three and a half years is the result of our folly.
As for the “war on terror”, the United States and other nations can deal with that threat–from Iraq or any other location–in two ways. First, we should focus on intelligence and counter-intelligence to identify and disrupt terrorist plans and operations. Our own considerable resources can be combined with other nations, particularly nations who have the assets and ability to surveil and infiltrate terrorist groups, to create a global anti-terrorist network. Second, when these efforts identify specific groups and plans, we can deploy our special forces to disrupt them. It’s pretty simple, actually. The terrorists may be dangerous but they are no Soviet Union or Nazi Germany. Cooperation and patience can deal with the threat they pose.
I would also urge the US government to pursue the war profiteers who have used the Iraq war to loot the treasury. Just as Harry Truman pursued similar corruption during World War II, America needs a vigilant effort to recover the unjust enrichment of the Iraq war profiteers who have found an economic bonanza while simultaneously shortchanging American troops and the Iraqi people.
My policy is no panacea. The results will be ugly but that’s the consequence of BushCheney’s failed policy. Anything else is simply sending more Americans to their deaths in some vain attempt to prevent BushCheney from having to acknowledge their failure.
[Cross-posted at Mockingbird's Medley.]