Sunday, September 17, 2006

Bring Them Home?

As we move into the fall elections, one of the major issues if, of course the War in Iraq. Lawn signs have popped up along the side of the road on my way to work declaring "Support the Troops Bring Them Home Now." Yet, Republicans, especially President Bush (most recently in his speech commemorating 9/11) have argued that we must stay the course in Iraq.

I want to start a conversation here on this question. I am very curious to know what my friends and readers think on this issue. I will confess that I was against the war when we declared it, because I was very skeptical of claims of WMD in Iraq and connections between al Qaeda and Iraq. Now that we know both of those claims were false, reasons for being there have changed. Now, one of the primary arguments is that we are bringing democracy to the Middle East.

My gut instinct on whether we should pull out of Iraq is that we should not. My current feeling is that we have a moral obligation to help the Iraqis to at least establish the infrastructure they need to be a stable country (or countries).

But, I am very open to other perspectives. What do you think?

[Oh, and this time the question mark in the title is genuine!]

11 comments:

Joe Erjavec said...

I am no expert on military science, but I think those in command of the US forces need to evaluate the situation carefully and to ultimately choose the path that helps Iraq move to some stability.

I think an immediate pullout would be disruptive at this point and would lead to more violence.

Anonymous said...

I am really torn over this. It's so difficult to know what's right and what's wrong at this stage, in part because this administration refuses to tell us anything remotely close to the truth.

I am incredibly angry that this administration would put our troops in harms way without the necessary means to win over the hearts and minds. My heart goes out to them. No matter how much you object to this war, please do not criticize our troops (not placing blame on anyone in particualr here).

My gut feeling is we've screwed this thing so much that there isn't much that can be done. But we have to try and resolve this thing. We cannot allow Iraq to delve into a civil war. I understand it has become a breeding ground for terrorists, thanks to our flawed strategy. At the same time, let's take these guys out before we have to face them at home.

I just think a change in leadership is long overdue. We do need to "win" in Iraq, but our strategy has ben grossly counter-productive up to this point. Pulling out now would only embolden the "terrorists".

It's really sad that it has come to this. I severely dislike the President, but feel I ought to support him for our troops' sake.

Let's stay the course but demand a change in leadership. That stands for today and 2008.

Anonymous said...

This is a hard question for me. My gut tells me that the government has never been forthcoming with the real justification for war. Given that, it is hard for me to make a decision about whether we should be there or not.

If we take the government at face value, then it seems to me that we are there to:

free the people from authoritarian rule (original justification)

provide stability to the region (current justification)

If these are indeed the justification for our troops then how are we making things better? Iraqis traded Hussein’s authoritarian rule for our own. Coalition troops and in fact private security firms (aka mercenaries) are not subject to Iraqi law and (as one would expect) are want to abuse their privilege. I have seen enough trophy video from military sources, mercenary sources and news sources to suspect that things have not changed much for some since Hussein’s disposal.

I understand the desire to provide stability to the region but I question whether our presence in the Kingdom of Saud and Iraq is increasing or decreasing stability? If we did not prop up the House of Saud and if our military bases did not lie in the shadow of Mecca then how would the extremists feel? Would we still view men like Bin Laden and Hussein as allies as we did during the 80s?

Meanwhile, as we struggle with how to “secure the peace” by shuffling around what has been described by Thomas Friedman as “just enough troops to lose” in Iraq are we letting the real prize of a stable Afghanistan slip through our fingers?

So, should we withdraw now, later, never? I just don’t know. If not now, how will we know when? Are we waiting for the Iraqi regular military and police to step up to secure the peace? How is that going to happen when after years of training there are but two Iraqi units ready to act independently of Coalition support? If after years of training the Iraqi regulars are unwilling or unable to step to the plate then why do we believe that they will ever? If Iraqi security forces know that they can always call on the Coalition forces to do the heavy lifting then why would they step forward to do the dangerous work?

If Iraqis continue to form ethnically and religiously segregated military and police units and if they can perpetually call on coalition forces to police key cities and resources then a civil war seems unavoidable with or without us.

Bolibuckness said...

We cannot pull out, since the civil war will get worse and more people would likely die. I agree with the "stay the course" message (gasp--I agree with Bushie II on this point).

However, national coalition-building is sorely needed, and the UN should be the primary governing body for this mess. Only a regime change--leading to more positive fuzzies about the US of A--will help on that score. We need a better image. We need to stop torturing people. We need a dialogic administration.

Anonymous said...

I think that we cannot pull out. Not until we fix what we messed up and not until we persuade the international community that it is in everyone's best interest to get more seriously involved in achieving some kind of stability in Iraq. Right now we want the UN to get involved to save the mess we have created, after having given them the ultimate f.... u... when we were too eagor to invated.
With that said, the situation is certainly not easy. It seems that people want to bring them home without much regard about what happens afterward. I am no expert, and I most certainly hope that our soldiers are safe. However, I would agree that staying the course is the best choice. It's bone chilling to me to agree with the administration...especially since I was dead against this war in the first place.

Jenny S-G said...

I must confess I am surprised that the consensus here (my sample of 5) is that our troops need to stay in Iraq. I get the impression that the Democratic party has been gradually shifting its rhetoric to one of "let's pull out" (I'm thinking Murtha and Kerry - both of whom have argued for a timetable for withdrawal). Now, this is not to say that you five are all Democrats or Indepedents, but I suspect that you are ;-).

So, where are some of the leaders of the Democratic party getting their public support? Where are my readers that say we should pull out? I want to hear those perspectives, too.

I must add that I agree with you five, although I am also sympathetic to one of the posts that says - how will we know when we can leave?

My answer to that is when the civil war is over, there is a stable government that the Iraqis are willing to abide by (which is unlikely to be a democracy in the Western sense), when the Iraqi military is no longer engaging in its own revenge killings but protecting all Iraqis and fighting against external bad guys - then we can leave.

But, I suspect we are years away from that.

What pisses me off is the administration's fantasy that nation building would be easy. I knew the administration was ill prepared to handle the aftermath of our "march to Baghdad" in 2003 when the looting and destruction of the infrastructure began. It was crystal clear at that moment that we had not the ground forces or the allies to help the country post-Saddam.

Such a fucking disaster.

Anonymous said...

The issue to me with the Dems is they are so incredibly weak on terror. I hear no solutions coming out of their camp. We need answers and nobody is providing them.

jefe said...

I think that you need to take a broader view of the stability of the region, and a view of history when weighing the options. Clearly, there has been, and continues to be a shifting in the axis of power in the region from Sunni to Shi'a. Historically, you had the major Sunni powers (the Saudis, Egypt, Iraq as a secular Sunni controlled state) squaring off against the Shi'as, who began their ascent to power with the rise of Khomeini in the late 70's. The US played the Iraqi's and Iran off one another without scruple in the 80's, supplying Hussein and this regime with plenty of firepower. Now, with a Shi'a dominated Iraqi government, and Shi'a sympathetic Syria, the balance is clearly beginning to shift towards the Shi’a. Add the Iraqi civil war, a nuclear weapons program and a rabid anti-Semite / anti-US Iranian leader into the mix, and you have a seriously destabilized region. Even by historic standards, this is really bad.

The crux of the matter is this: What problem is the US trying to solve? Are we really naive enough to think that we can prop up a democracy while the decades-long Shi'a vs. Sunni drama plays itself out? Maybe there's a long shot that this is possible, but I think it’s long odds. I think that we need to reframe the discussion in terms of a historical process that is only partially played out; and determine long-term options and their implications.

I still haven't answered Jen's question :-)

OK - here goes:

This problem is: how does the Islamic world enter the world of modernity without all hell completely breaking loose?

The answer is: moderate Muslim (Sunni) nations in the regions need to step up and lead the way. Does the US have any legitimacy left to help the moderate Muslim world help itself?? Probably not until we enact a little bit of regime change of our own.

As a stop-gap measure, the US cannot leave Iraq. It would fundamentally and permanently push the balance of power over to the Shi'a column. Iran would intervene to stop a civil war in 12-36 months after a US pullout, and what would we do to stop a nuclear-empowered Iran? And that would be all she wrote.

Long term (and I'm talking decade here), we need to help the moderate states of this region (Egypt, UAE, etc) help themselves, bring Syria back into the Sunni camp, and bring Isreal back into the middle of the spectrum in the process. This calls for top-notch diplomacy by the US, Europe, the Mid-East, and probably China and India before too long.

jefe said...

I think that you need to take a broader view of the stability of the region, and a view of history when weighing the options. Clearly, there has been, and continues to be a shifting in the axis of power in the region from Sunni to Shi'a. Historically, you had the major Sunni powers (the Saudis, Egypt, Iraq as a secular Sunni controlled state) squaring off against the Shi'as, who began their ascent to power with the rise of Khomeini in the late 70's. The US played the Iraqi's and Iran off one another without scruple in the 80's, supplying Hussein and this regime with plenty of firepower. Now, with a Shi'a dominated Iraqi government, and Shi'a sympathetic Syria, the balance is clearly beginning to shift towards the Shi’a. Add the Iraqi civil war, a nuclear weapons program and a rabid anti-Semite / anti-US Iranian leader into the mix, and you have a seriously destabilized region. Even by historic standards, this is really bad.

The crux of the matter is this: What problem is the US trying to solve? Are we really naive enough to think that we can prop up a democracy while the decades-long Shi'a vs. Sunni drama plays itself out? Maybe there's a long shot that this is possible, but I think it’s long odds. I think that we need to reframe the discussion in terms of a historical process that is only partially played out; and determine long-term options and their implications.

I still haven't answered Jen's question :-)

OK - here goes:

This problem is: how does the Islamic world enter the world of modernity without all hell completely breaking loose?

The answer is: moderate Muslim (Sunni) nations in the regions need to step up and lead the way. Does the US have any legitimacy left to help the moderate Muslim world help itself?? Probably not until we enact a little bit of regime change of our own.

As a stop-gap measure, the US cannot leave Iraq. It would fundamentally and permanently push the balance of power over to the Shi'a column. Iran would intervene to stop a civil war in 12-36 months after a US pullout, and what would we do to stop a nuclear-empowered Iran? And that would be all she wrote.

Long term (and I'm talking decade here), we need to help the moderate states of this region (Egypt, UAE, etc) help themselves, bring Syria back into the Sunni camp, and bring Isreal back into the middle of the spectrum in the process. This calls for top-notch diplomacy by the US, Europe, the Mid-East, and probably China and India before too long.

Abigail Adams said...

Hello, all.

Jefe makes an important distinction. He asks: "how does the Islamic world enter the world of modernity without all hell completely breaking loose?"

The distinction is that he did not call it a world of democracy. That word gets bandied about some much, and I think many people don't realize that there is really no such thing as a true democracy, that the US is not even that form of government.

Also, I've always had a problem with the unilateral nature of the US occupation. The number of troops from any other nation is much too insignificant, and the US's use of rent-a-cop troops is so wrong. We need to stay, maybe, but we need to really, really restructure and create very strict guidelines about what can happen over there (like, no Bush-style torture).

I really wonder about the cockiness factor. Going in without it and remaining unaccountable has really hurt the US throughout the whole region, and, as Jefe wrote, I also think we need to work within the region.

Uplift Monkey said...

Hey Jenny – Peter here. Long time lurker. First time posting.

You’re right… this is a real mess we find ourselves in. I’m in almost total agreement with the opinions of my anonymous peers: Suckered into war. Corporate / governmental greed. Ineptness from the Executive branch. Necessity of long-term commitment to Iraq. Lack of troops makes “victory” unlikely. et cetera…

A religious/civil war in Iraq is nearly unavoidable in my opinion. Jeff has already eloquently stated the reasoning, but let me recap. There are three powerful rival groups that have been fighting with each other for decades - and in some cases, centuries. While we destabilized the region with our ill-conceived removal of Saddam, a good deal of responsibility falls squarely on the British for the questionable colony/nation building strategy they conducted in the Middle East in the first half of the 20th Century. If memory serves, it was they who divided these mostly tribal lands into the current, bordered nations that exist today. In their wisdom, they threw together two powerful but rival branches of the Islamic faith (Shiites and Sunnis) with a large portion of the Kurdish people, and call the subsequent mess “Iraq”. History shows that only a dictatorship or police state can keep a nation together that does not want to be united. And we removed that dictator - with predictable results!

Any moral person would ask: having willingly inserted ourselves into this messy police action, how can we possibly think of removing ourselves without leaving some promise for the future?

I find myself asking more and more: why should we oppose the disintegration of the short-lived and clearly artificial nation that is Iraq?

I don’t have any profound answers… it seems no one does. The internal forces of the Middle East and the Islamic peoples have long been a mystery to the West – and given my ignorance, I am no exception. I do know that for the good of all, extremist religious behavior must be opposed on every front. I do know the long down-trodden Kurds _want_ what the US is selling: money, power, technology – a.k.a Western modernity. If we refocus our efforts, we might still be able to help salvage that future for them despite the forces of Islam tearing each other apart.

Peaceful coexistance and modernity is an active choice, not a default condition.