Getting Out of Iraq

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Memo:
To Website Fans, Browsers, ClientsFrom Jude WanniskiRe A Pull-Out More
Likely?

Public
support of the war in Iraq continues to shrink as the body count rises and the
light at the end of the tunnel gets dimmer. I decided to write about this for
my monthly column in Al Jazeera’s English-language website, noting a debate is
shaping up with anti-war forces arguing there would be a more favorable outcome
with U.S. forces gone than with their continued presence. The debate should heat
up in the months to come, but no decision to leave on a fixed-timetable likely
until the end of the year.

Getting
out of Iraq by Jude Wanniski
Thursday 16 June 2005

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.

This article originally appeared on al-Jazeerra.

June
20, 2005

Jude
Wanniski [send him mail] runs
the financial/political advisory service Wanniski.com.

Jude
Wanniski Archives

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