Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Case for Withdrawal

Proponents of what has become known as ‘The Surge’ are generally supporters of the invasion of Iraq. Their bottom line is and has been that we cannot ‘cut and run’. They will never tell you what they exactly mean by ‘cutting and running’ – or rather, they will not tell you what they are trying to avoid by not withdrawing the troops. That is because they cannot. Victory in Iraq is not anything that can be quantified. There is no measurable success, no goal, no aim. It is a fluffy white foggy blob of invectives and half-hearted explanations. This is one of the main reasons for the moral drain amongst the troops stationed there. Spc. Will Hedin, 21, of Chester, Connecticut, summed it up when he described his role in the Iraq War: “We drive around and wait to get shot at.”

The fact is that like it or not, the US troops’ presence does probably limit the amount of violence each ethnic fraction is able to commit on the other, but only by a small margin. Meanwhile, the very presence of those troops also aggravates certain other aspects of the situation. There is pent up anger at the Americans and, by proxy, anger at those who are either affiliated with them, support them or are perceived to gain from their continued involvement. The United States and the ever dwindling “Coalition of the Willing” is actually fulfilling the role that was vacated when Saddam was ousted. Crack downs, curfews, lock ups and random arrests of anyone seen to be in opposition. The US occupation is the stabilizing force and it isn’t even doing a very good job at that either.

It has become clear to anyone, that the Ethnic divisions that run within Iraq’s society are so deep that they have caused fissures and when allowed to, they will cause permanent cracks. No amount of babysitting is going to help. Babysitting is namely what the Pentagon is attempting to do; support the crippled Maliki administration until the country stabilizes and the relatively recently elected Iraqi government can stand up on its own two feet. But that isn’t going to happen.

When the US led coalition pulls out, whether it be this year, next year or in ten years, Iraq will devolve into separate entities - it will “fly apart” as Cheney predicted back in 1994. So that being a given, what is the continued presence of US forces in Iraq actually achieving? One can compare it to trying to plug a dam with one’s thumb as the waters rise. At some point, one is going to have to pull one’s thumb out and the later one does so, the higher the water will have risen and the greater the catastrophe. The fact that the US Military’s strategy has morphed into an occupation is only making things worse.

This is not about cutting and running but about taking some of the sting out of the present situation. It will result in a spike in bloodshed to be sure, but that is something that cannot be avoided – it has been on the cards ever since the British divided up the Middle East. Like water, ethnic divisions have to find their own level in every region and no amount of foreign presence will put that off for ever. It’s in our nature. The only thing left to do is to remove the catalyst that sparks the violence in Iraq – the US and coalition forces.

The concern that Al Qaeda will win if we pull out is not only erroneous but misleading. Al Qaeda, or rather its surrogate entity in Iraq, will be dealt with in the same way as the other factions. It is unlikely that a group that targets Iraqi civilians will last long there. Contrary to popular belief in the West, the Iraqis are a tough bunch and will sort out their own problems. Many will perish but that is the legacy and the cross that we have to bear for having meddled in something we did not fully understand. We will not change that by staying there a minute longer. But by leaving, we will remove the raison d’être of those that plant bombs amongst civilians in order to punish them for not protesting America’s involvement.

So in order to save lives and shorten the process I’d call on the American government to withdraw the troops and with them, please, those brave young Iraqis who helped them as translators, guides and suppliers and who will meet a terrible fate if they are left there to face the wrath of the opponents of the continuing American occupation. Iraq needs continuing help in the form of money and infrastructure, not weapons.

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