Should the U.S. Leave Iraq?

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April 1, 2008 @ 16:25 UTC

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Iran, Iraq
Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain
International Relations, War & Conflict

As the U.S. presidential election continues in full swing, a lot of talk centers around Iraq. Senators Clinton and Obama are competing with one another as to the soonest pullout date possible. Senator McCain is pledging to stay the course until victory is at hand. And popular support for the war is at an all time low. So who is right?

There is no question that the U.S. started the war based on wrong intelligence. Prior to the war, there was no significant Al Qaeda presence in Iraq, and no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction were ever found. True, Sadaam was an evil tyrant who started two wars, and who caused the deaths of one to two million people. And true, at one time, he not only had WMD’s, but used them to kill thousands of Iranians and Kurds. The fact that he ran out of WMD’s doesn’t make him a saint, does it. But the fact still remains that the U.S. went in to war based on wrong assumptions and false intelligence.

So what’s the problem in just pulling out as quickly as possible? We would stop the killing and maiming of our brave soldiers. And we would stop the enormous cost to our taxpayers. The war has already cost over half a trillion dollars; money that could have done a lot of good here at home.

But you don’t have to be a brain surgeon to figure out that a precipitous pullout could be exceedingly dangerous. Imagine; the U.S. pulls out. A bloodbath ensues. U.S. credibility and deterrence plummets. Extremists of all flavors jump in to fill the power vacuum in Iraq. Iran’s influence in the region continues to grow ever more menacing. Iran continues its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Sunni countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia follow suit to counter the Iranian threat. The West perceives a threat to its oil supply, and by implication, its economic wellbeing. Result? World War III, with a nuclear edge to it. If the West is inclined to fight for anything, it is dollars and cents.

Perhaps a better course for the U.S. to follow would go something like this:

• We will initiate a gradual pullout and draw down our forces, and redeploy them to military bases located in strategic areas of the Middle East. Our presence in the region will enable us to keep foreign powers in check.

• We will continue to train and supply Iraqi soldiers; to allow them to fight the insurgency, and to reconstitute Iraq as a vibrant and prosperous democracy. Iraqis will do most of the fighting on the ground. We can provide air support and intelligence.

• We will continue to support political reforms and accommodation between the various factions of the Iraqi government.

• We will establish an International Fund for Economic Development in Iraq, which will be used to invest in Iraq’s economy, and to create jobs, in those locations which are secured militarily by Iraqi forces.

• Our vision for Iraq will be a Vision of Peace, Prosperity, and Freedom—a Vision of Hope—and we will use our influence with the community of nations to make that vision real.

• As circumstances allow, we will suggest a NATO type force, comprised of Muslims, Jews, and Christians, from various nations in the region, which will step up to the plate when called upon to defend the rights of people in the Middle East.

• We stand ready to invest in you, if you are ready to invest in yourselves, by fighting the insurgency, by coming together equitably as a people, and by reconstituting your country as a vibrant and prosperous democracy, in keeping with universal values, and with the values of Islam.

In short, regardless of why we went in, in the first place, it may be prudent to maintain a presence in the region, for the sake of U.S. credibility, which has been weakened considerably, and for the sake of maintaining a measure of deterrence, which will be able to keep in check the dangerous ambitions which threaten world peace.

It is easy to cast a negative light on U.S. intentions. And to be quite honest, a great deal of criticism is warranted in this regard. However, you don’t have to be much of a political strategist to envision a chaotic outcome in the wake of a precipitous U.S. withdrawal. In the final analysis, like it or not, the U.S. may be uniquely able to bring a sense of hope to the world, even if she has not been able to carry this mantle well in recent years.

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