Sunday, June 05, 2005

George of the Jihad

I wrote some post a few weeks ago about Iraq, implying that the United States needs to take a less visible role in Iraq, and a few people in the comments section (particularly Cory) took issue with this stance. We're already there, the thinking goes, and we already desposed the country's leader and instigated a war that destroyed much of its already slack infrastructure, so we have a responsibility to look after the place now.

For the most part, I've always agreed with this thinking. My initial point was more that we should be allowing other groups to take responsibility for the things that we do, maybe even going so far as to train Iraqi police and army officials outside of Iraq, so that everything doesn't seem so tied to US imperialism.

But I'm starting to shift in my thinking. I'm starting to think we should just get the hell out of there entirely. In a recent poll, 71% of Iraqis said they would like America to withdraw completely for their country. If they don't think they need us around, who are we to argue?

I like the way Dan Carol frames the question over at the Huffington Post. He suggests that Democrats pursue one of two strategies on the War in Iraq - either commit fully to the effort, increasing the military budget and extending the influence of the US in Iraqi society (by educating women, rebuilding cities, and so forth), or let the Iraqis vote on whether we stay or go (which will likely result in our withdrawl).

These do seem to be the only two options with any possibility of actually working out. Clearly, the Bush Administration's half-assery isn't going to get the job done. Things just keep getting worse and worse and worse but whenever Rumsfeld talks, everything's all puppy dogs and ice cream. "We're turning a corner," Cheney says. "The insurgency's in its death throes. Osama just called and apologized and we're all, like, totally cool now." Well, Dick, what's taking so long, then?

But what would become of Iraq if we simply cut and run? As I see it, there are a few possibilities, and it's immensely hard to predict. (Particularly for me, a guy who knows a reasonable amount about the contemporary Middle East situation, but isn't exactly a Ph.D. on the subject). Clearly, the whole thing could devolve a bit and become a full-out Civil War, with some faction eventually obtaining some kind of majority control and violently putting down the opposition. Or, with the US removed, other Middle Eastern and European countries may provide an extra boost, and any efforts to reform, even those that are Western in origin, will no longer be tainted by the imagery of the US military.

Post-Abu Gharib, these people just don't trust us any more, and they don't seem particularly receptive to our so-called "aid." In my lifetime, I doubt American relations with the Arab world will ever recover from the events of the past 4 years. I just think our military presence there day in, day out, only serves to make things worse. But hey, I could be wrong.


Cory said...

If we leave now the entire war was for nothing (I know you believe that's true, but I disagree). We need to stay and see the establishment of a democratic Iraq through. A democratic ally to the U.S. in that region will be of huge benifit to us and gets us closer to stabilizing the region and the ultimate goal of reducing extremism.

While it's certainly hard to see past the hardships we're encountering there (and I don't mean to marginalize them in any way), Iraq is making concrete progress towards establishing its democracy. No one believed the Jan 30th elections would be successfull, and they were. The insurgency is not gone but Al-Zarqawi is believed possibly dead.

We're doing the right thing. I know this is an unpopular belief, but I feel 20 years from now it will be clear.

Lons said...

You agree with the war ideologically. That's fine. But you're making an ideological argument when I'm talking about pragmatic solutions.

I'm saying, who cares if it was right or wrong. What do we do now? Because what we're doing is for shit. Things aren't getting better, they're getting worse. This "everything will be fine in 20 years" stuff is nonsense.

And a "democratic ally" that's allied with the US? Not possible. THEY HATE US. If they elect someone who represents the people, then that person will want to bomb us, not make friends and stabilize the region.

Cory said...

What we do is stay the course and enable the Iraqis to get their new government off the ground. It's been a matter of months since they had their election. We need to exercise patience.

Despite what the media reports, all of Iraq does not hate us. The majority of business, intellectual and legitimate (ie, non-extremist)political leaders in the country, while likely not loving our presence there, recognize it is a means to an end as far as Iraq entering the 21st century as a member of the free world. It's beneficial to them and very beneficial to the U.S. to have a democratic, forward-thinking Iraq.

Lons said...

It's so easy to argue for patience when you're comfortably living in Southern California. I don't really feel comfortable telling the 100,000 American soldiers over there to hang out, be patient, get shot at for a few more years until we figure out how to get the Iraqi government in order.

Cory said...

I agree completely. It is hard to justify the loss of American lives for any cause, particularly when one (in this case, me) is, as you said, living safely. But some causes are worth fighting for, and I think this counts. We can't pull out now. It would be devastating to both Iraq and our entire Mid East policy.