2.04.2007

Options in Iraq

We have two options in Iraq and they can be summed up with these lines from The Clash:
Should I stay
or should I go?
If I stay there will be trouble
but if I go it will be double.

Basically, we can withdraw from the violent areas in Iraq and slowly redeploy some troops to regional bases/ships and send the rest home. Or we can stay in the middle of this sectarian strife / civil war.

Either way I think both options will result in more violence against Iraqi citizens, infrastructure, and coalition troops (mostly Americans by now). Staying the course (or a mini surge) is the easier, safer answer and that's why Bush chose that path.

Withdrawing from Iraq (slowly or quickly) is going to open the floodgates for more sectarian violence. Iraq's untapped oil is the prize for the winner, and there's little reason to think that any of the competing power players will accept compromise. It will be a fight to the finish, and Saudi Arabia has made it clear that they will go in if we leave. (Of course, they claim that the move is only for the protection of their fellow Sunnis.) This struggle for power will be bloodier than any of the violence we've seen in Iraq for nearly two decades. Therefore, I think withdrawal is an extremely difficult proposition to accept.

If we are going to stay in Iraq and continue the oxymoronic "fight for peace" then we have to move forward with a new approach. (I would also like to say that it's difficult for me to advocate any type of war or escalation of war, but I feel that I need to explore this path.) Here are my thoughts for a true New Way Forward:

Stability in Iraq can not be provided by American and Iraqi forces alone. A failed state in Iraq will diminish American credibility for decades, it disrespects the culture and history of the people in Iraq, and it contributes to global and regional instability. While a few would profit and thrive in this failed country, the world as a whole would not. That's why the first critical step is to kneel before the rest of the world and admit that we failed to prevent the current crisis in Iraq, and that we need help. We must be humble and admit that we need help. We cannot initiate an honest dialogue with potential allies without admitting our mistakes and our needs. Humility will not fix our problems, but I think it will bring sensible allies back to the table.

We must initiate a new dialogue with our European and Arab allies. Few credible people want to see a failed state in Iraq because it is "Bush's War". However, I think our credible allies have been pushed entirely out of the process. It's time to bring them back and listen to what they have to say. Sunni and Shia live in relative peace in the Middle East, and put aside their differences in return for safety and trade. I believe an new dialogue is possible, many people in the world would welcome it, and most Iraqi Sunni/Shia are willing to return to mixed ethnic communities.

The US needs to say that we will pay the startup costs for an International or Arab peacekeeping force in Iraq. The US military has lost too much credibility and burned too many bridges to be effective anymore. The peacekeepers in Iraq need to know the society, speak the language, and share the common life-experiences of the people they are protecting. They must understand the history and honor of the culture, and it's apparent that the US military falls well short of those goals. In order to establish this force we have to pay for it.

Would it be possible to form a new coalition of the willing? I think that it would be possible if the US showed humility and made a strong case for peace. And I don't think we have any other options to explore.

So that is basically my New Way Forward. Initiate a new dialogue (with regional and European partners) that is framed by humility, financing to establish a peacekeeping force, and a legitimate commitment to peace.

I know that my plan seems absurd when you factor the Bush/Cheney cabal into the equation. However, this plan is not directed solely at the Administration. If they are impeached for some reason then the same suggestions are applicable to President Pelosi. If I am given a choice between their Stay The Course (now with mini-surge Marshmallows!) or total withdrawal, then I have to choose withdrawal. The current plan isn't working, won't work with a small pittance of extra personnel, and comes with a pricetag that doesn't justify the return on investment. We either have to support the best plan for peace or go home and deal with the fallout.

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