Delusions of the war's architects aside …
After 9 years, time for troops to leave Iraq
Whenever a voice in the major media makes sense, putting their sensible statement before millions of ordinary citizens, we celebrate by passing it on. This 2011 editorial is from USA Today, Oct 24.
by Editors of USA Today, Oct 24In a fanciful world, the Iraq War would end with democracy secure, a peaceful Iraq firmly allied with the United States, and Iran at bay. Grateful Iraqis would line the streets to thank American troops for sacrificing more than 4,000 lives to free them from a tyrant's rule.
But delusions of the war's architects aside, that day was never going to arrive.
Since the initial "mission accomplished" euphoria melted into civil war, the question has not been how to achieve victory in the conventional sense but rather how quickly the U.S. could withdraw while still putting Iraq on a path to a stable democracy.
Now the answer is in: eight years, nine months and a few days -- more than twice the length of U.S. involvement in World War II.
That is how long the Iraq War will have run when the last U.S. soldier leaves less than 10 weeks from now at President Obama's order, precisely on the timetable negotiated with the Iraqis by President Bush.
Bush has second-guessed himself since leaving office, saying he should have allowed more time for training Iraqi troops, building up Iraqi institutions, and maintaining civil order. Obama, who promised early in his campaign to remove all combat troops with 16 months of taking office, also sought more time.
His administration aggressively pressed the Iraqis for months to invite a longer American stay. But with the U.S. troop presence widely unpopular, and key Iraqi factions unwilling to formally guarantee U.S. servicemembers immunity from prosecutions, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declined. So the American involvement will end.
In confirming the year-end schedule last week, Obama put too shiny a face on a very uncertain situation, but as messy as the ending might be, other options were worse.
One strategy that the administration weighed last summer was to leave a tiny residual force, perhaps as few as 3,000 troops -- not enough to secure the country, just enough to make a tempting and vulnerable target.
Another would be to stay on uninvited. With a majority of Iraqis already seeing the United States as an occupier not a liberator, that would have been a bonanza for the Iranians and Islamist radicals alike.
That option was not seriously considered, but Republican presidential aspirants, positioning themselves to criticize Obama for any problems that appear in the next year, seemed to edge very close to it. They called Obama's announcement a diplomatic failure that will leave Iraq vulnerable to Iranian aggression. Never mind that the Iraqi public and large factions of the government no longer want U.S. troops present. Meddling where you're not wanted isn't usually a formula for success.
Nor is a blame-Obama strategy likely to sell very well. Bush launched the war (with considerable Democratic support). It fell apart on his watch, and he very personally directed the complex surge strategy that rescued the war effort from disaster. He negotiated the war timetable, which Obama carried out. And the truth is that even if U.S. troops stayed two more years, similar doubts would be raised.
In fact, the most important lesson to draw from the war is not about how it is ending but about how it began -- with the disastrously mistaken belief, propagated by then-Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, that the United States could advance its interests by intervening militarily in the Middle East. Instead, that hubris bred hostility among Muslims and appears likely to make Iran the big winner in Iraq.
More time would not alter those truths. Ready or not, after nearly nine years of war, with the Iraqis' welcome mat withdrawn, it's time for the troops to come home.
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JJS: Killing human beings you disagree with seems acceptable to some political people, as long as they can get away with it. The American politicians who started this war were and are safe from retribution; and they kept their soldier-age children out of it. It was a similar situation for the Arab leaders of the resistance; they ordered suicide bombings but did not commit suicide themselves and very few died in the actual conflict. While I can't say what any Arab ruler would do, I suspect none of my American politicians would start a war if he personally had to lead it, as did an ancient emperor and medieval king; the old, “walk your talk.”
But the problem of war is deeper than warmongers and egomaniacal politicians and even unenlightened and easily misled masses. There’s also the issue of our species’ broad acceptance of injustice, of privilege, and of hierarchy. Obeying politicians and seeing the world as a dark place dominated by enemies makes sense when one lives a life relatively powerless, not free from the will of others, unable to make the major, meaningful choices for oneself.
Let’s create societies the world over in which individuals feel powerful and can grant themselves enough self-respect to stand tall and think for themselves. That sort of society is founded on economic justice, whereby one earns their keep and keeps what they earn, and society does, too, generating value that shows up as the value of locations and recovering those land values for the benefit of everybody. Such a policy is called geonomics and it has worked wherever tried.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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