November 28, 2006
@ 02:49 AM

Scott Adams of Dilbert fame has a blog post entitled Complicated Decisions where he writes

There is also genuine concern for the fate of the Iraqis if we leave.  Yet, according to this opinion poll, 7 out of 10 Iraqis want us to pull out.

And so the decision about leaving Iraq can be boiled down to this:

1. American troops are dying.
2. It’s impossible to know if national security is best served by staying or leaving.
3. 7 out of 10 Iraqis want us to leave.
4. We have accomplished all that we KNOW we can accomplish. Anything else is guessing.
5. Iraq diverts resources from our higher priorities.

It’s impossible to know the RIGHT answer about Iraq. But it has become simple to know the RATIONAL path. Unlike a financial investment, where you might be willing to invest in a high risk/reward situation, you can’t diversify war. If the payoff isn’t obvious and predictable, the rational thing to do is pull out and minimize troop casualties. Any other path is just guessing.

Your disagreement is invited.

Back in 2003, I wrote a couple of blog posts where I disagreed with the plan to invade Irag because it set a bad precedent. The current state of affairs with almost 3,000 dead and over 20,000 injured U.S. troops along with the claim of over half a million Iraqis dead is worse than anything I imagined. Now that the invasion has happened I find myself unable to agree with either of the major sides in the U.S. debate on what the next steps should be.

On the one hand, there are the Cut and Run arguments such as what Scott Adams has made above which I mostly agree with. Except that it is quite likely that the situation in Iraq will likely devolve into a civil war and wholesale ethnic genocide if U.S. troops leave. Given that the U.S. invasion is the catalyst for the current state if affairs, I strongly believe that the U.S. has a responsibility to fix the country it has turned into a frightful warzone. On the other hand, the Stay the Course arguments have failed to sway me because it is quite clear that the situation in Iraq is more complex than the sound bites on Fox News would have one believe. Sometimes it seems there are five or six different sides battling it out; U.S. troops, Al Qaeda operatives, Sunni militia, Shi'ite militia, Iraqi government troops and foreign troops from neighboring countries. It is unclear to me exactly how the Stay the Course folks quantify victory in such a situation. Today I walked past a TV and saw some pundit on MSNBC asking which side the U.S. should fight alongside in the Iraqi civil war as if picking what outfit to wear to the prom. 

I've begun to lean more towards Scott Adams's position although I have difficulty with the U.S. initiating this bloodshed then just walking away from the results of its actions. What are your opinions on the next course of action the U.S. should take?


Tuesday, November 28, 2006 4:04:51 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
We should never have gone in. Now it is time to pull out. It seems unlikely that the US can fix things. We've tried. We've tried hard. At this point it is up to the people of Iraq to decide if they want peace, freedom and democracy or if they prefer civil war and anarchy or even tyrany.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006 4:53:32 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
To be blunt, the opinions of the Iraqis don't mean much. Ask yourself: What would the Japanese and Germans have said to such a survey in 1945?

As to pulling out early, consider: We went into Afghanistan largely due to the after effects of leaving it to spiral after the Soviets were defeated. If we leave (leaving Iraq to the tender mercies of Syria and Iran), do you think a stable, non-dangerous state will come out the other side?

If we leave early, we'll simply buy a regional war - one in which we'll have to intervene (imagine what such a war will do to oil supplies and the world economy). We had the luxury of leaving things as they were in 1991. After we intervened then, the die was pretty much cast.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006 1:04:02 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
7 out of 10 Iraqis want us to leave. Politically, that's a landslide. Quite frankly the country needs a civil war. They are horrible and bloody but they don't last forever. At some point people can't take any more violence and they sit down and talk. The U.S. did this and it worked well.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006 1:06:27 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
The U.S. needs to start making more friends -- this is too complicated a situation for them to handle alone.

For example, the north is mostly Kurdish and has a fair amount of oil, the central area (around Bagdad) is majority Sunni arab and has relatively little oil, and the south (around Basra) is majority Shi'a Arab and has lots of oil. Can you imagine the Sunni agreeing to a three-way partition, where they get almost none of the oil? As a Shi'ite state, Iran wants to support the Shi'a, of course, but most of the southern Shi'a are Arab, while most of the Iranian Shi'a are Persian (except for the Iranians who live near Iran's oil and occasionally push for their own independence from Iran). Meanwhile, Turkey would be extremely concerned about an independent oil-rich Kurdish state in the north, which could be a launching point for Kurdish nationalists in Turkey itself, while Syria will naturally want to back the Sunni, since Sadam was a former fellow Baathist (a non-religious Arab political party) leader.

And that's just the simple stuff.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006 6:23:05 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I think we need to stay and I base that largely on the fact that I disagree with Mr. Adams 2nd point. I think it is vital to our national security interest to stay in Iraq.

I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t think the war in Iraq was necessary. I don’t believe Bush lied but at the same time I don’t think Saddam posed any imminent threat (at least, no more than he had for the last 12 years where he’d done nothing but talk a good game)

That said something like this (e.g. having to invade a country) will surely be necessary some day and if we can’t prove to the world that we’ll stick this out then no one will ever support us in the future.

So suddenly, 10 years down the line, we have a country that has nuclear weapons and that says they are going to use them but we can’t depose the regime because none of the citizens want to ally themselves with a country that’s going to cut and run when the going gets tough.

Bottom line, echoing what you said earlier, we made this mess and someone has to find a way to clean it up. That someone should be us.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006 11:08:56 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
We need to secure our access to oil in the region. Iraq gives us a base for that. I say we should stay.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006 9:29:16 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I pretty much agree with Don Park's take... withdraw most of the ground forces from the countryside and cities, create a heavily fortified base (or series of bases) with airstrips, and do as-needed bombing runs or search-n-rescue on behalf of the elected government.

With that said, I'm convinced we need to do something about those 3 out of 10 who want us to stay. Most of them are probably women who want a seat at the table that they won't get without us, and the thought of abandoning them is stomach-turning.
Thursday, November 30, 2006 7:25:22 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
"We should never have gone in. Now it is time to pull out." ... That argument ignores every fact in the current situation. Stop living in the past, face the facts, think about the problem, think about a solution, for everyone's sake.

You have foreign elements (Al Qaeda and Iran, with different goals) exploiting a 1400 yr old divide in Islam to stage violence to create a situation which the US cannot tolerate. Forcing us out, allowing each to pursue its agenda. "They" know, from modern history, that Americans cannot stand dead people. All they need to do to force our hand is kill people, anybody, non-stop, to get us to shift our policy.

Our government needs to prioritize. Is Iranian hegemony in M.E. a bigger threat than a terrorist-Islamist state in Iraq? I don't think it is. Let Iran have influence in Iraq, make Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt stand up for themselves for a change and offset Irans influence. In the meantime, redploy our forces to western Iraq, Kuwait, and Jordan, in such a way as remain in direct, constant contact with Al Qaeda in Iraq and the half dozen tribes they've allied with in Anbar province...with the help of the 25 tribes allied against them. Hunt them down. Kill them.

At the same time, we can pursue a policy designed to bring a halt to Iran's nuclear weapons program through the UN...without Iran being able to use violence in Iraq as a lever on us.

Right now, Iran has too much influence on our decision making and they are feeling very confident, evidenced by their bold actions in Iraq (escalating violence), Lebanon, and the nuclear program. Disengaging from Iraq (except for couter-terrorism) will negate some of that influence.
Mike Padula
Thursday, November 30, 2006 8:32:53 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Then again, I could be misunderestimating the significance of the Sunni-Shia conflict. Perhaps, regardless of the external interference, that is the single biggest threat now.

As we discuss our options, so do other players, like Saudi Arabia:
Mike Padula
Saturday, December 2, 2006 10:04:19 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Well, the trial of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein for war crimes and crimes against humanity gives a basic option to the US - Dubya was fond of the death penalty, I hear, when he was the Governor of Texas, and what's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Don Park's take on this - the heavily fortified bases, "surgical strikes", etc, sounds rather like an obverse of the US policy during the Pacific War, 1941-45 - cut off the Japanese Imperial Army occupied islands and let them wither on the stalk, so to speak. It's also how the US Army lost the Vietnam War.

One major mistake that should have rung bells with anyone and everyone was the US policy of not talking to anyone, apart from itself, and not "negotiating with terrorists" - "terrorist" in this case being defined as "Arab" or "Muslim". (Nigeria went through one horrific civil war - one can hardly imagine the carnage, hardly "for life" - if the Nigerian Federal Government adopted the operative US definition of "terrorist"!)

Another major one was the non-rebuilding of basic infrastructure after the war. When the only thing the invading US Army did was rebuild the oil pipelines, I guess they blew their credibility with the ordinary Iraqi citizens.

It has been suggested that the US hand Iraq over to a UN-based trusteeship-style of arrangement.

Either way, the US has guaranteed it will face as much humiliation as it has budgeted for, by electing that clown in the first place.
Wesley Parish
Monday, December 4, 2006 8:14:37 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I love it. Since there's so much respect for other people's opinions embedded in yours, I feel justified in responding.

There's no precedent for what's happending to Saddam is there? Other than that idiot Dubya's fondness for the death penalty?? Buy this book at Amazon: "Mass Atrocity, Collective Memory, and the Law". I read it once, in a class I took, in a college HISTORY department...crazy concept that.

I actually agree with you on the issue of decreasing to a handful of bases. Although, for different reasons. You'd think a really big base full of lots of US troops would make a pretty inviting target to say...Al Qaeda eh? Or, Iranian ballistic missiles? BTW, the US Army did not "loose" Vietnam. The consensus of historians as they look back would seem to be, it was anything but a military defeat, including, a political fiasco.

NOBODY said all Arabs or Muslims were terrorists. YOU played the card pal. However, to deny the root of the conflict in the middle east stems from tension between Salafi/Wahabi/Khoemeni radicalism and "the rest of the world" is to firmly plant your head in the sand.

I think an awful lot of people would disagree with you on the rebuilding issue. Of course, they're the people who have spent years in Iraq...not the media-political elites in Manhattan or the Beltway....

As for the UN trusteeship of Iraq. Oil-for-Food mean anything to you? How have "UN troops" done in terms of treatment of indigenous populations lately? Child rape mean anything to you? What has the UN done in the last 25 yrs to show it can handle this sort of task? Lebanon? lol. Bosnia? nope. That was Nato... Sudan? Rawanda? Chad? Anything?? Oh, right, that declaration of human rights thing...I'm sure they could get Al Sadr, Al Masri and the like to sign that, no problem.
Mike Padula
Tuesday, December 5, 2006 11:11:03 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Well, Mike, you seem to have taken it upon yourself to prove one of my points - about the US not talking to anyone except themselves. Though I did make the point of using the word "US" as opposed to "US citizens" - anyone might have figured I was talking about the US Federal Government - anyone apart from you.

Since when did I state: "There's no precedent for what's happending to Saddam is there?" or words to that effect? Like, what happened to a group of the Third Reich's National Socialist Party's leaders following the Second World War?

You see, the US in that trial, put its signature to a binding treaty that made wars of aggression a crime against humanity. I have yet to see any proof that Saddam Hussein, following the end of the Gulf War of 1991, was in any condition to threaten any other nation in the neighborhood. So that makes the 2003 Iraq War a war of aggression - and yes, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. Dubya deserves to face an international war crimes tribunal.

"NOBODY said all Arabs or Muslims were terrorists." Evidently you haven't been listening to the media. The Western slant for over fifty years has been that the Middle East is the West's private playground, and if the locals object, well, that just proves they are fanatics. it's interesting - the usual slant on Palestinian children, for example, chucking stones at Israeli soldiers, is that that proves that Palestinians don't love their children. An elderly Dutchman told me about some experiences of his during the Third Reich occupation of the Netherlands, and told me that if the German soldiers had seen him and his friends doing what they were doing, they would have shot them. Dutch people don't love their children?

As far as the rebuilding issue, there's a consensus that Dubya and crew had no idea what they would do with Iraq once they had won the initial battles. And believe it or not, there are books written by people who WERE the people who spent years in Iraq. And they're not complimentary to the US Government. Where's the millions Halliburton lost? Or has it "de-escalated" to billions?

Lastly, what do you know of the UN? Anything? Or do you just know of it as the convenient "bogeyman" for US foreign policy, now that the Soviet Union's gone?

Yes, the UN has problems - one of which is the US insistence that the UN follow US foreign policy to the letter, another is that the UN doesn't need the US to pay its arrears. And yet another is that the one time the UN Secretariat tried to strike out on its own, and make itself an independent force to be reckoned with, in the person of Dag Hammarskjold, all the permanent members of the Security Council decided that that would never happen again. It was frightening, having a Secretary-General who couldn't be bought, who went and did things, who rocked the boat.
Wesley Parish
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