FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Getting Out of Iraq

Public opinion polls now indicate that a clear majority of the American people no longer support the war in Iraq, 59% want to pull out immediately or on a definitive timetable, and 56% believe the war is not worth it.

Is there any chance the Bush team will throw in the towel before the end of this year and make a clear decision to pull the troops out?

A year ago, early in the presidential race, my educated guess was that such a decision would be made before the end of 2005, whether the president won re-election or Senator John Kerry succeeded him in the White House.

The “educated” part of my guess was that the driving force of the insurgency in Iraq was not religious, but purely political. I assumed the Iraqi nationalists would not relent until the occupying power was gone and with it the “government” that the US was installing to serve its imperialist designs.

“We have reached a tipping point,” Ronald Spector, a military historian at George Washington University, told USA Today`s Susan Page. “Even some of those who thought it was a great idea to get rid of Saddam [Hussein] are saying, `I want our troops home.`”

Representative Walter Jones, a conservative Republican from North Carolina, who was among the most enthusiastic supporters of the war, came out last week for withdrawal, citing the casualty level, which over the weekend reached 1700 killed and 12,000 seriously injured.

In another poll, nearly 75% called the casualty numbers unacceptable, up from 28% several months ago.

Those on either side of the issue express multiple reasons for arguing “exit now” or “stay the course,” but among serious analysts the question comes down to what would happen once the US departed.

The hawks, who may or may not acknowledge the war was a mistake to begin with, argue that the Baghdad government now in place will not be able to prevent being overwhelmed by the insurgency and a bloody civil war if the 140,000 US troops are not there to maintain what security does exist.

The doves, for the first time since the occupation began two years ago, are voicing the idea that the US presence in and of itself is the chief reason for the insurgency.

They argue that a fixed timetable for a complete withdrawal would change the behaviour of the insurgents and lead to a more favourable outcome.

Former Senator George McGovern, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 1972 as the Democratic nominee in opposition to the Vietnam war, last week proposed a solution tied to the president`s position that the US would only stay as long as it took to train Iraqis to maintain order by themselves.

With some logic, McGovern noted that the Pentagon now says some 40,000 Iraqis have been fully trained, which suggests that many of the US troops can be brought home, with others following as more Iraqis are trained.

If such a policy were adopted and followed, the nationalist leaders of the insurgency would be motivated to encourage their followers to help increase the number of trained security forces instead of killing them.

It is not likely the Bush administration would pick up on the idea, at least not yet. It continues to believe it can pull the strings in the interim government for the months that it will take for a new constitution to be written, one that will satisfy the various religious blocs.

The constitution is supposed to be ready by 15 August, but that now appears to be an impossible deadline, with the Shia and Kurd blocs unable to find Sunni leaders capable of concluding a deal.

That is, there may be Sunni religious leaders willing to work on a constitution, but the insurgents are nationalist and want the occupying forces out before there is any talk of a new constitution and new elections.

Without a clear, fixed process to satisfy that demand, American military commanders in the field are now surmising that it might take several years for an Iraqi regime to evolve in a way that permits departure of all US troops.

If the American electorate has now gone over the “tipping point“ on its support for the Iraq involvement, it must be clear to the foreign-policy establishment – political leaders of both parties – that time will run out on its patience long before the president`s lame-duck term ends in 2008.

What that means is increased problems in meeting the manpower needs of the US Army and Marine Corps.

Young men and women, who would normally volunteer to serve in the armed forces – given the financial incentives being offered – are being discouraged by their families, teachers, etc. In six months, there will be a recruitment crisis.

Once it appeared the war might have been undertaken without justification, a growing number of Americans of the kind that supported previous wars on behalf of national security are coming to see Iraq as a black hole.

They are also opening up to the idea that perhaps George McGovern is right, and that instead of a bloodbath and civil war following a US exit, the political class in Iraq will find it relatively easy to work things out for themselves.

In his public appearances over the weekend, McGovern pointed out that the bitter-enders predicted a bloodbath in Vietnam 30 years ago should the US throw in the towel; the political losers in South Vietnam rather quickly came to terms with Hanoi.

And today, not only is Vietnam a peaceful country and increasingly a prosperous one, it also has a diplomatic and trading relationship with the United States.

Of course, there may be some unexpected event or series of events that rescue the president`s objectives in Iraq between now and the end of 2005, but my educated guess seems to be holding up so far and the known forces we see point to an exit strategy, not one of staying the course.

JUDE WANNISKI is a former associate editor of The Wall Street Journal, expert on supply-side economics and founder of Polyconomics, which helps to interpret the impact of political events on financial markets.

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
April 27, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Graham Peebles
Crisis of Consciousness: Change and the Individual
Louis Proyect
Racism and Eugenics, American-Style
April 26, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
As Trump Berates Iran, His Options are Limited
Daniel Warner
From May 1968 to May 2018: Politics and Student Strikes
Simone Chun – Kevin Martin
Diplomacy in Korea and the Hope It Inspires
George Wuerthner
The Attack on Wilderness From Environmentalists
CJ Hopkins
The League of Assad-Loving Conspiracy Theorists
Richard Schuberth
“MeToo” and the Liberation of Sex
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Sacred Assemblies in Baghdad
Dean Baker
Exonerating Bad Economic Policy for Trump’s Win
Vern Loomis
The 17 Gun Salute
Gary Leupp
What It Means When the U.S. President Conspicuously and Publicly Removes a Speck of Dandruff from the French President’s Lapel
Robby Sherwin
The Hat
April 25, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Selective Outrage
Dan Kovalik
The Empire Turns Its Sights on Nicaragua – Again!
Joseph Essertier
The Abductees of Japan and Korea
Ramzy Baroud
The Ghost of Herut: Einstein on Israel, 70 Years Ago
W. T. Whitney
Imprisoned FARC Leader Faces Extradition: Still No Peace in Colombia
Manuel E. Yepe
Washington’s Attack on Syria Was a Mockery of the World
John White
My Silent Pain for Toronto and the World
Dean Baker
Bad Projections: the Federal Reserve, the IMF and Unemployment
David Schultz
Why Donald Trump Should Not be Allowed to Pardon Michael Cohen, His Friends, or Family Members
Mel Gurtov
Will Abe Shinzo “Make Japan Great Again”?
Binoy Kampmark
Enoch Powell: Blood Speeches and Anniversaries
Frank Scott
Weapons and Walls
April 24, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russia and the War Party
William A. Cohn
Carnage Unleashed: the Pentagon and the AUMF
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
The Racist Culture of Canadian Hockey
María Julia Bertomeu
On Angers, Disgusts and Nauseas
Nick Pemberton
How To Buy A Seat In Congress 101
Ron Jacobs
Resisting the Military-Now More Than Ever
Paul Bentley
A Velvet Revolution Turns Bloody? Ten Dead in Toronto
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Left, Syria and Fake News
Manuel E. Yepe
The Confirmation of Democracy in Cuba
Peter Montgomery
Christian Nationalism: Good for Politicians, Bad for America and the World
Ted Rall
Bad Drones
Jill Richardson
The Latest Attack on Food Stamps
Andrew Stewart
What Kind of Unionism is This?
Ellen Brown
Fox in the Hen House: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail