Friday, December 15, 2006

The Empirical Question About Iraq

The empirical (not imperial!) question about Iraq is, what would happen if the US were to quickly withdraw its forces? Many people including the President assume that Iraq would then slide into disastrous chaos and sectarian conflict, but the answer to the question is not obvious. I don't know if it would be a good idea or not. However, by all accounts majorities of Iraqis tell pollsters that they think the US should withdraw. Without any transparency from the Pentagon about what exactly US forces are actually trying to do, most people get an image that US forces are trolling around waiting to be attacked. I'm sure that's not an accurate description of what they're doing, but it occurs to me that the Pentagon's much-vaunted control of information isn't quite working here the way it should. I for one can't see a clear war aim at this point. As for "surging" the troop level with a rapid injection of tens of thousands of additional troops, that might lock things down while they're there: then what? Here's a Kissingerian bit of unthinkable thought: would it be so bad to leave the Sunni (Saudi) and Shia (Irani) powers to fight it out with a proxie war? We would have to hold our noses while some awful ethnic cleansing went on. I'm not advocating that, but the President has got us all in a situation where we may not have any way to get out without even more blood on our hands.

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