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Should the United States Send more Troops to Iraq or Start the Withdrawal?

David V. emailed:
Here's a thought that you may want to write about: why not try democracy in Iraq? 70% of all Iraqis want American troops to leave immediately, and at least the same percentage of Americans feel the same way. Why not follow the will of the people? Yet it appears likely that Bush will follow McCain's proposal and put 20-40 thousand more troops in.
Systems of representative democracy are usually considered better than direct democracy. Besides, Tony Blankley warns in RealClearPolitics (via DMK) against bending to popular pressure:
Expedient Washington politicians, take note: Your public is fickle. They may cheer your decision today to get out of Iraq but vote you out of office tomorrow when they don't like the results. Much of the world (and a fair portion of the American public) may hate us today for our alleged arrogance. But they will spit out our name with contempt through time if we permit to be released the whirlwind that will follow our exit.
I have heard it said (by conservatives and Republicans, as well as others) that "if the Iraqis just want to murder each other, we should let them. We offered them freedom, and they didn't want it." If our decision on Iraq was only about Iraq, that argument might be persuasive.
But if, as it is hard to imagine otherwise, our departure from Iraq yields civil war, chaos, warlordism and terrorist safe havens -- it is very likely that Iran will lurch in to harvest their advantages, Turkey will send in its army to stop an independent Kurdistan, and Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the other Sunni states will be sucked in to fend off Shi'a Iran's hegemony. In that nightmare maelstrom the 20 million barrels a day of oil shipped from the Persian Gulf -- and the world economy with it -- will be in daily risk of being cut off. Nor is that all. Al Qaeda and other terrorists are already gloating that they have whipped the "cowardly Americans" in Iraq.
In Should We Stay or Should We Go Now?, David Swanson summarizes Anthony Arnove's book "Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal." One of the more convincing points is "4. The United States is not preventing civil war in Iraq. This is the same myth the British spread in 1920, when they didn't want to stop occupying Iraq."
David V. elaborated his call for immediate withdrawal in his blog post "The Haditha Massacre".

Do you agree with the Clash song: "Should I stay or should I go now? / If I go there will be trouble / An' if I stay it will be double"? Or is it the other way around, i.e. more trouble if the U.S. troops leave Iraq fairly soon?  And what should Germany do regarding Iraq?

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Yank on :

I find it hard to believe that you did not know this statement is a whopper: "70% of all Iraqis want American troops to leave immediately". There is a recent poll that says 71% think we should stay for a year. And Leftists state this as 71% wanting us out within a year. Cute, eh? Almost none of these polls are scientifically valid, and the lack of scruples in conducting them is shocking. They like to leave out the Kurds, for example. And other parts, using "security concerns" as their excuse for an invalid sampling. Or they have the poll administered by an Arab polling agency from outside Iraq. And don't even get me started on the way they word the questions. There is no doubt whatsoever that the great majority of the Iraqi people want us there now. And of course they don't like having us there. If we had armored humvees and our troops patrolling the streets here, we wouldn't like it either. The answer you get depends on how you ask the question. In fact, part of reason for the sectarian strife is the Sunnis' fear that we are going to give up and pull out. This is causing some to distance themselves from the government and tribe-up for safety in the chaos they fear if we pull out. "Much of the world (and a fair portion of the American public) may hate us today for our alleged arrogance. But they will spit out our name with contempt through time if we permit to be released the whirlwind that will follow our exit." This is very true. Our leaders have to weigh American public opinion heavilly and go against it only when they know it's for our own good, risking the results in the voting booth. But as for the rest of the world's opinion, we should forget it. We will be condemned no matter what we do. It's a game. And one shouldn't make choices so as to win others' approval. Before you know it then, you're making stupid and/orimmoral choices just to win approval. You need the moral courage to do the right thing even when you know you'll be villified for it. We especially don't need foreigners' approval. That's prostitution. Europe will try to govern the US by manipulating us with that carrot and stick. The only opinions that count here are those of the American and the Iraqi people. "The United States is not preventing civil war in Iraq. This is the same myth the British spread in 1920, when they didn't want to stop occupying Iraq." This makes no sense. Shall we give him the benefit of the doubt and regard the "not" in the first line as a typo? Some of his other logic is so backwards, I'm not sure we can, but I will anyway. Assuming the first sentence should be "The United States IS preventing civil war...." he goes on to say "Our occupation, and the constitution we've imposed on Iraq, deliberately pit ethnic groups against each other in an effort to direct violence away from the occupiers. Still, the bulk of the violence is directed at the occupying army and its collaborators. And it is getting worse, not better." Better sources, please. We didn't "impose" its constitution on Iraq. It is true that the people who constitute the body of government officials are connected to sectarian groups and leaders. That's the UN's doing. It advised the Iraqis to elect party "lists" as in Europe, not individuals as in the US. The result is politicians with no real constiuency, with loyalty to the party that put them on the list rather than to the voters. As a result the government is part of the sectarian problem. In fact, there's much more tribalism/sectarianism among politicians and other officials than among the general Iraqi population. The source is also badly out of date. June was ages ago. Back then "civil war" was just a myth of wishful thinking among those who want the bad guys to win. Since then, the insurgency has faded. This sectarian strife began to swell in August. Terrorists stepped up their efforts to influence our election, and others out of fear of the results of our election. What should we do? The problem is the Iraqi government. Maybe (as Mohammed at Iraq the Model says) we should do what we've been falsely accused of and get in the game to back a "partner" group that will GOVERN the country. You know, a government not in the pockets of the various sectarian factions. The military is high on the Transition-Team approach, embedding American troops with Iraqi units. That's making a big difference. How to do that with the police though? Military police from Europe would be nice in addition to our own, but we don't expect that. We won the first war. Though the average guerrila or insurgency conflict lasts 10 years, we have done well to largely win that battle already. But this third war, the sectarian violence is dangerous. We can help the Iraqi people put an end to it, but we can't do it for them - at least not without a real occupation. That means shoving the current government aside to take matters into our own hands with at least 500,000 troops, which would mean we'd have to either keep them all there for the duration or greatly lengthen the tour of duty. And we're not gonna do that. There's a lot of thought going into what we should do. The problem isn't so much the plan as the change in the conflict that has occured over the past few months. Have you heard how quiet Fallujah and other parts of Anbar province are? We have made great headway there. The insurgency is well in hand. But this metamorphic war has changed on us again, into sectarian strife. If we can come up with a feasible "new direction" :-) I think we should give it our best shot. Iraq really isn't nearly as sectarian as the media portray it. The vast majority of Iraqis consider themselves Iraqis, not Sunni or Shiite. In fact, they're heavilly intermarried and live in mixed neighborhoods. So, the country isn't that fragile. The consensus I've heard from Iraqis themselves, Conressmen and Senators, and American military is that the problem is the government. It's regarded as so good-for-nothing that I've heard many Iraqis wouldn't mind a coup.

Assistant Village Idiot on :

If you read Arnove's other 7 summary points, it puts #4 in some perspective. 1. No right to be there in the first place. 2. Not bringing democracy. 3. US making the world less safe. 5. Al Q arrived in Iraq after the invasion 6. The US is "not honoring" those who died by continuing. 7. The US is not rebuilding Iraq, Halliburton and Bechtel are looting it. 8. We are making things worse. So. 5 and 7 are demonstrably false. 2, 3, and 8 are broad evaluative statements, impossible to capture in simple up-down characterizations. 1 and 6 are opinion statements making strong use of emotive but undefined terms. Arnove is a longtime antiwar activist who writes for the International Socialist Review and other far-left publications. He is best known for the laughable "People's History" series with fellow socialist and anarchist Howard Zinn. This particular book on Iraq includes the familiar litany of the racist, imperialist US, who went into Iraq under false pretences in order to get the oil. With that said, let's look at #4. If I'm reading this right, he says that because the British used this reason in 1920, and leftists now think they were wrong, then it can't possibly be used as a reason again. Sure, that works. Avoiding irony in the eyes of socialists is a great basis for complicated foreign policy decisions.

David on :

As I read the daily reports of unbelievable carnage in Iraq, I can only agree with Richard Clarke (in TNR): "Americans tend to think we can achieve almost any goal if we just expend more resources and try a bit harder. That spirit has built the greatest nation in history, but it may be dooming Iraq. As the head of the British Army recently noted, the very presence of large numbers of foreign combat troops is the source of much of the violence and instability. Our efforts, then, are merely postponing the day when Iraqis find their way to something approaching normalcy. Only withdrawal offers a realistic path forward...."

Yank on :

And socialists (i.e., anti-capitalists = anti-Americans even if they be American) tend to be defeatist Chicken Littles who think that America can achive no goal. It appears that this inveterate pessimism is due to an articlce of faith in the socialist religion that the Evil Capitalist Empire only looks strong, but is actually as weak as a termite infested house about to fall any minute now. George Orwell's essay, "Notes on Nationism" shows how this disease is nationalism, a "negative" nationalism that is anti- some nation (as opposed to pro a nation). Just the flip side of the same old pathology. Every American achievment goes right through their brains like a neutron that stimulates a knee-jerk denial of that reality in a repeat of what that achiement just disproved. Who is "dooming" Iraq? Look where your finger is pointing. Not at those blowing it up, but rather at those trying to stop them. As Orwell says, you must be an intellectual to think like that. Indeed, only an intellectual could twist the course of logic a full 180 degrees to blurt a joke like "Only withdrawal offers a realistic path forward." Unless his head is twisted round to face off the backside so that "forward" is actually "backward" for him. A suggestion for Joerg. It stems from a criticism I have the whole world outside Iraq, so it's not aimed at you. But please pause a moment, take a step back, and look at what we're doing. Just listen to us. All this noise. What are we talking about? We are talking about what people talking about Iraq are talking about. That's not only absurd, it's making talk out to be reality, and it's letting the talkers control our perceptions. Why not ditch these middlemen? Why not look into Iraq directly, so that they no longer come between us and reality? Why not quit playing Pass-the-Word and refer to root sources of information? Why not refer to Iraqi bloggers, coalition troops, military commanders, IRAQI news sources, statements by Iraqi government officials and sectarian leaders, statements by al-Qaeda's "caliphate" in Iraq? True communication never occurs through the filter of a third party. Go-betweens are interlopers who can never have pure motives unless the other two parties are hostile and need to be reconciled and the third party has a vested interest in their reconciliation. Otherwise, the power that third party has to edit the information it transmits from one to the other ALWAYS corrupts it. The go-between gives into the temptation to distort the message it carries, so as to serve its own selfish ends. Yes, that goes for the press too. Journalists are no holier than anybody else. Indeed, what happens to them when they get it wrong or even lie outright? Nothing. Is that credibility? Yet the ACCOUNTABLE leaders of transparant democracies like the US and UK have no credibility? Only if you confuse credibility with arbitrary favoritism. For example, General Abizaid testified before committees in both Houses of Congress last week. What he said is public record. Why not quote HIM? And why not quote the statements of the committees' senators and Congresspersons, both Democrats and Republicans? And why not quote Prime Minister Blair? Why not quote an IRAQI blog like "Iraq the Model" for evidence of how Iraqis feel and for explanations of the political scene there? Why instead quote hearsay and pure divination and scientifically invalid polls by foreigners far away with a political ajenda? The results would be embarrassing to most who think they have any idea what's really going on there.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

"Why not quote an IRAQI blog like "Iraq the Model" for evidence of how Iraqis feel and for explanations of the political scene there?" What makes you think that this blog is representative for how Iraqis feel? Many Iraqis were interviewed for the article recommended here [url]http://www.atlanticreview.org/archives/475-guide.html[/url] Did you read it? There are obviously many different opinions among Iraqis. I have the impression that the Iraqis interviewed in the above mentioned article are more representative than the blogger you mention. Moreover, there are many other Iraqi blogs who disagree with "Iraq the model." Anyway, perhaps you could present some quotes and arguments from that blog regarding the "progress" in Iraq.

Yank on :

Perhaps I failed to make myself clear enough for you. I suggested that you ditch middlemen. Telling me that a middleman interviewed many Iraqis is no defense of quoting middlemen instead of quoting Iraqis themselves. I said LIKE "Iraq the Model." I didn't tell you to quote only Iraq the Model. Again, your reply is NOT at the point. What's more, I invited you to quote al-Qaeda, so I was hardly suggesting that you quote only pro-American sources. Why do you NOT want to stop quoting middlemen and start quoting Iraqis themselves, al-Qaeda itself, Blair, Abizaid, Iraqi government officials, Iraqi sectarian leaders, Congressional Committee members (privy to classified information), Iraqi news sources, Iraqi bloggers, and coalition troops? Why?

JW-Atlantic Review on :

How do you know that "Iraq the model" or other so-called Iraqi blogs are indeed written by Iraqis? I know a couple of Iraqi Fulbrighters and I know the author, who interviewed the other Iraqis for the above mentioned article. Regarding other sources: Why don't you just present some direct quotes? That would be a constructive contribution to the debate.

Yank on :

How do you know that "Iraq the model" or other so-called Iraqi blogs are indeed written by Iraqis? Awh, come on. You're beginning to sound like a flat-earther. So, I don't believe you, either. Why won't you even answer my question? I asked why you won't quote original sources instead of middlemen. If you really think you're right, you shouldn't be unwilling to.

Yank on :

David V says: "Yet it appears likely that Bush will follow McCain's proposal and put 20-40 thousand more troops in." Hmmm. President Bush has said nothing consistent with that. General Abizaid testified just days ago and said nothing consistent with that. Secretary Rumsfeld has said nothing consistent with that. The incoming Secretary of Defense has said nothing, period. Nothing supposedly "leaked" from the Baker Commission is consistent with that. So, where is David getting this "apparition"?

David on :

@Yank, Folks who have the inside scoop on the Iraq Study Group's recommendations are saying this. Let me strongly recommend this this opinion piece by (decorated Vietnam war vet) Sen. Chuck Hagel, which will appear in tomorrow's Washington Post: [url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/24/AR2006112401104.html]Leaving Iraq Honorably[/url] The only thing I disagree with Sen. Hagel about is his statement that the US " must begin planning for a phased troop withdrawal from Iraq." The time for "planning" to leave has long since passed.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Very interesting. Hagel concludes: "The United States can still extricate itself honorably from an impending disaster in Iraq." I doubt whether the US can do so honorably. His headline is "Leaving Iraq Honorably," but he does not describe why a phased withdrawal would be seen as leaving with honor. IMHO it is either too late or too early to leave with honor. Since I don't see an honorable way out of Iraq, I am just asking for the least worst option: What does less harm to long-term US interests: Starting a phased withdrawal or trying to turn things around in Iraq by sending more troops and making drastic changes (incl. forming a new Iraqi government?, new constitution?, even more federalism?, deal with Syria and Iran?)?

2020 on :

I'm amused to read words about 'leaving Iraq honorably' - but in fact I'm sure nobody here in this thread really knows what by definition an 'honorable withdrawal' would mean: The besieged forces are allowed to leave the theatre of war under the eyes of the victorious troops, under weapons and with march music, officers obliged to abstain from fighting for the rest of the war, the ranks to be discharged. This historic definition is almost forgotten today and in fact it's irrelevant in modern wars, but officially offering the enemy an honorable withdrawal today would rather be interpreted as a last, final insult and humiliation. The US Army in Iraq should be granted a 'withdrawal in dignity', as it was granted to the Soviet forces in East Germany.

Zyme on :

Solving problems is a fascinating task. Especially when you have different options - who got more options in Iraq, the american government or the american military command in Iraq? Now when a country starts burning and the fire gets out of control, it is not only a matter of moving in more firefighters or pulling them out. Greater measurements are needed then. The enactment of a curfew in Baghdad is clearly a good one. But how is it enforced? Do amerian forces shoot on sight when the curfew is violated? Also a curfew only prepares the ground for further measurements of course. How about temporarily moving the population of the most rebellious districts to provisional camps, and then march in to put out the remaining fire? Last but not least I can´t understand why the americans are not installing a secret police in Iraq and start hiring native informants. Such an investment is clearly worth the expense, since once the natives start to realize that it pays off to betray their neigbours, you gain an invaluable advantage in information.

Assistant Village Idiot on :

JW, I appreciate your asking for a "least worst" solution commentary. I think that is wise. Military actions, even victorious ones, always have terrible additional consequences. They are advisable only when the other choices are worse. I believe, as you do not, that going into Iraq was already the least bad solution - that the other possibilities had already failed. Hussein's containment was dependent on international support for OFF, which was increasingly porous. I don't know if an increase in troop strength is what is necessary to win this war, but it remains quite winnable. The arguments that it is not, and that all gains are evaporating, come from those with least access to real information and most access to the echo chamber of those who said from the beginning that it was unwinnable. How I would loved to have seen the effect on the morale of Islamic terrorists, and the subsequent encouragement on sane and moderate Muslims, had the Western world expressed confidence and approval for the removal of terrorists. Hell, it would have been nice to see what the effect would have been if they offered no opinion at all, but just reported the facts. Instead, they have actively provided encouragement for terrorists by highlighting setbacks and leaving successes unreported. Their declared justification has been caution, and a desire to keep certain American attitudes from making things worse. This is a rationalization. Their unacknowledged motivation is that the "right sort" of people should be running the country and the world. Thus, solutions by the "wrong sort" must be undermined, or they might be elected in greater numbers. Divining motivation is precarious, and I do not do it lightly. But it is not without hard evidence. There is a tribal mentality among the American left which seeks its own dominance.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

"How I would loved to have seen the effect on the morale of Islamic terrorists, and the subsequent encouragement on sane and moderate Muslims, had the Western world expressed confidence and approval for the removal of terrorists." That would not effect their morale at all. IMHO, we cannot look how a something effects our morale or the morale of our troops and then conclude that the opposite would effect our enemies the same way. Do you know what I mean? I think you put to much blame on the media coverage. I agree with the Brookings Institute. The media coverage reflects events on the ground. And Americans have been pretty optimistic about Iraq until recently despite the media coverage. [url]http://atlanticreview.org/archives/466-Iraq-Analysis-of-U.S.-Media-Coverage-and-the-Mortality-Estimates.html[/url] What do you think about this CNN clip? John Roberts explains the situation in Iraq to Howard Kurtz: [url]http://atrios.blogspot.com/2006_11_26_atrios_archive.html#116456500221463981[/url] You are in favor of stay the course? Or do you want to see more troops in Iraq? A deal with Iran and/or Syria? Do you want to see the Maliki government replaced on behalf of the US forces? More autonomy for the regions? Or more federalism?

David on :

"Thus, solutions by the "wrong sort" must be undermined, or they might be elected in greater numbers." That's right: democracy is too precious to allow the people to decide. This is the worst sort of authoritarian drivel I expect from AVI and his ilk.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Jonathan Chait is thinking the unthinkable: Bringing back Saddam: [quote="LA Times"]Restoring the expectation of order in Iraq will take some kind of large-scale psychological shock. The Iraqi elections were expected to offer that shock, but they didn't. The return of Saddam Hussein — a man every Iraqi knows, and whom many of them fear — would do the trick. The disadvantages of reinstalling Hussein are obvious, but consider some of the upside. He would not allow the country to be dominated by Iran, which is the United States' major regional enemy, a sponsor of terrorism and an instigator of warfare between Lebanon and Israel. Hussein was extremely difficult to deal with before the war, in large part because he apparently believed that he could defeat any U.S. invasion if it came to that. Now he knows he can't. And he'd probably be amenable because his alternative is death by hanging. I know why restoring a brutal tyrant to power is a bad idea. Somebody explain to me why it's worse than all the others.[/quote] [url]http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-op-chait26nov26,0,991459.column?coll=la-util-opinion-commentary[/url]

Don S on :

Well, that's Jonathan Chait for you. The most hidebound conservatives of all call themselves 'progressives' these days - with complete sincerity. It's no joke at all. I think it's an idea whose time as come. After that we can work on restoring the Borbons to power in France, get the Hohenzollerns back for Germany, and put a Hapsburg back on the throne of Austria-Hungary.... Better still let's restore the thrones in Greece and Italy!. Why not? It would be more popular and work better than restoring Saddam in Iraq would.....

Zyme on :

Please Don, stop it! Whenever I hear people speaking of the good old times, when europe still had its emperors.. I can´t keep myself from getting sooo nostalgic :) Currently many old residencies are restored - Most famous of course is the Berliner Schloss, which was the residency of the Prussian Kings and the German Emperors of the Second Reich. Polls show that more than 30% of the population of Berlin are willing to donate money for the project. It also gained support from the german parliament, which has declared to pay for the main amount of costs. Of course, a palace does not come cheaply. Estimated here are 670 Million €. What an amount :)

Don S on :

"Whenever I hear people speaking of the good old times, when europe still had its emperors.. I can´t keep myself from getting sooo nostalgic :)" Yeah, me too. I live in the UK but the British monarchy is almost as pallid and flaccid a thing as the monarchies in Norway, Denmark, and Nederlands. For true imperial decisiveness one needs to look to "People's Republics" with hereditary succession. Had you looked into emigrating to North Korea or Syria? Iraq would have been ideal until the loathsome Americans overturned the Hussein dynasty. Alas. Another possibility would be Saudi Arabia or perhaps Egypt or Morocco, if your wife or significant other doesn't object too strenuously to being shut up in purdah....

Don S on :

"4. The United States is not preventing civil war in Iraq. This is the same myth the British spread in 1920, when they didn't want to stop occupying Iraq." Well there is civil war & then there is civil war. Actually the term I have in mind isn't civil war, though. It is genocide. Can there be much doubt that Al-Sadr has plans for the Sunni minority in Iraq?

Anonymous on :

Yank wants Iraqi blogs, but he can only read English. Nearly all Iraqi blogs in Arabic are full of criticism of the US. Some of them are mentioned in this CNN clip: [url]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7yruTD3amk[/url] The reporter on the ground also says: "Anyone who still remains in doubt of whether this is a civil war or not is suffering from the luxury of distance."

Yank on :

Words do matter. 80% of the violence occurs within 36 miles of Bagdad. Not a civil war. (See Senate and House testimony of General Abizaid on November 15 before their respective Armed Services committees.) Indeed, violence erupting in one city, like Berlin or Washington, doesn't constitute a civil war. Though it could of course spread throughout the country and become one. But I am sick of people calling things what they ain't -- to become a self-fulfilling prophesy by fear mongering. There are many Iraqi blogs in English. Didn't you notice? Or didn't you bother to visit the blog and surf the links to see that? Then turn around and accuse ME of not reading. Why are only the MSM middlemen "credible" in your eyes? CNN reliable? Indeed, CNN only overstated the crime in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina by about 100 times. Or didn't you know that? Did your media report that? But since AR considers the press the only reliable source of information and thinks I am ill-informed and lying all the time, and since the New York Times can be counted to print every classified document it digs up, you should finally admit that what I have said is true: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/29/world/middleeast/29mtext.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&oref=slogin This was classified as all such information about a head of state would be, so as not to embarrass him or her. The Administration doesn't want to undermine Maliki, especially since he seems to want to do better.

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