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NY Times Calls for Immediate Withdrawal from Iraq

The United States should leave Iraq "without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit," which would require more than six months, according to the New York Times Editorial of July 8, 2007. Staying in Iraq would make matters worse. The NYT is aware that
Iraq, and the region around it, could be even bloodier and more chaotic after Americans leave. There could be reprisals against those who worked with American forces, further ethnic cleansing, even genocide. Potentially destabilizing refugee flows could hit Jordan and Syria. Iran and Turkey could be tempted to make power grabs. Perhaps most important, the invasion has created a new stronghold from which terrorist activity could proliferate. The administration, the Democratic-controlled Congress, the United Nations and America’s allies must try to mitigate those outcomes — and they may fail. But Americans must be equally honest about the fact that keeping troops in Iraq will only make things worse.
What about leaving some troops in Kurdistan to prevent the worst?:
Leaving troops in Iraq might make it too easy — and too tempting — to get drawn back into the civil war and confirm suspicions that Washington’s real goal was to secure permanent bases in Iraq.
The NYT wants European allies to help with the refugee crisis and with pressuring Iraq's neighbors to abstain from power grabs. Well, Europe's possibilities in these regards are limited, but of course it is in our interest to help as much as we can. What else could and should Europe do?

UPDATE: For a different point of view, read "Misunderstanding the Surge" by Frederick W. Kagan in The Weekly Standard. This military historian, who is credited with the "surge" plan, argued on June 5, 2007:  "The New York Times wrongly judges the plan and the commanders who are executing it."

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Pat Patterson on :

Sorry, but I just can't get too excited by an editorial from the same paper that also endorsed Michael Dukakis and Jimmy Carter(twice).

JW-Atlantic Review on :

I am surprised that the NYT has not called for an immediate withdrawal before. It seems that the number of Republicans who don't want to wait for "the surge" report in September is growing. More conservative critics of the US Iraq policy.

SC on :

Well, you can "come out" editorially for immediate withdrawal only once. If you want to be seen as affecting change, as I think the Times editorial board clearly does, then you need to think carefully about when you make your statement. The timing of this might reflect the view of the Time's board that the stars have finally aligned themselves: A substantially weakened President, growing Republican worry and dissatisfaction in advance of the '08 election and in the wake of the immigration debacle, renewed pressure on the Congressional Democrats from their base to be more assertive on Iraq policy. But then, as Pat Patterson points out, the Times political instincts aren't always the best.

bob on :

Pat is correct. The NYT is a shadow of its former self and has lost its unique position as the political and social arbiter. Its quite sad really. I remember reading those passioned but fair prophecies about Regan's trickle-down economics, voodoo economics and supply side economics; of course, they were wrong but the tone of the discourse was civilized. Sulzberger has ruined it a decade what it took his family generations to nuture. In a concise reiteration then: things could get worse in Iraq (armed conflict internally and externally, mass refugee problems and a potential civil war). It is incumbant upon the international community especially the US to resolve these problems since we created them. However, 'speaking truth to power' the continued presence of American and coalition troops might make things worse. The editioral does not result in a logical conclusion. Things could get worse in the ME--no shit, its the Middle East. The Americans broke it, they have to fix it. Obvious. More troops could inflame the natives. Yes, they very well could. So we should base our foreign policy on potential catastrophic outcomes and not the probability of them actually happening. The editorial is a broadside against the post-'73 Vietnam argument which states that we are ethically responsible for the Vietnamese and Cambodian deaths after our military withdrawal and cutting-off foreign aid to South Vietnam. The editorial board wont mention that directly of course b/c it was a democratic Congress that voted on the suspension of military and economic aid but that terrible dictu is the bogeyman.

Greg on :

I know I'm not supposed to even ask the question, but here it is, for the NYT and those who agree with them: what will happen when we leave Iraq? What are the consequences? Will al Qaeda find a safe haven there? Will the mullahs in Tehran control Iraq's oil and export to Iraq their violent islamic revolution? Will Iraq become the next Lebanon (complete with a new base for Hezbollah)?Seems to me the US didn't consider the consequences before going - are we about the make the same mistake? What else could and should Europe do? Europe is unwilling to do anything that would help. The people causing the disaster in Iraq - AQI & Iran - aren't going to be swayed by pretty European diplomacy, which is all Europe would be prepared to offer.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

"Europe is unwilling to do anything that would help." Well, let's assume Europe would be willing. What could Europe that "would help." I think, sending 20.000 troops is not something that would help.

SC on :

JW, Would you at least allow the question to be phrased this way: "What can Europe do to help now?" To me it seems nearly impossible to discuss what Europe or anyone outside the region can usefully do beyond the usual operations of disaster relief for refugees if the dire forecasts of the critics of withdrawal - much less "immediate" withdrawal - which the Times editorial seems to accept even to the point of extreme cases, comes to pass. At that point, a different set of men with guns will have their day and the regional powers will take the field one way or another without too much regard for Europe or the US. Indeed, 20,000 more combat troops beyond the current representation probably is less desirable than some greater engagement in the events currently unfolding. To begin with, perhaps European governments should join the discussion by either supporting or refuting assertions like those of the Times editorial; after all, these are views held by more than just the Times editorial board. And as you write, Europe ought to have an interest in events as they are now unfolding in Iraq and in Washington.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Of course, I "allow" a rephrasing of that question ;-) And I agree with your answer to it. Thus, it is sort of lame to say that Europe is unwilling to help, as another commentator claimed. Basically, I think, Europe does not care as much as it should about Iraq. So, yes, Europe is not very "willing." But: There is not much that Europe could do anyway. Europe is not totally willing and enthusiastic about helping the US in Iraq, because Europe knows that it can't do much. So there is not *much* of a point to cricitize the lack of willingness. Well, some point there is. Maybe someone has a creative idea what Europe could to...? [i]"perhaps European governments should join the discussion by either supporting or refuting assertions like those of the Times editorial;"[/i] But then Europe would again be accused of lecturing Americans. I think a few European governments have said that the US should invite all of Iraq's neighbors for talks and plan an exit. I think European governments are VERY concerned about the mess after the US withdrawal, but they understand that the US domestic pressure to pull out is getting too big, while at the same time the surge will not be successful. The US will pull out and leave a mess behind -- either in six months or in two years. It's not an IF, but a WHEN. And Europe can't do anything about: No influence over US policy, and no influence over any other actor in the region. I think this is the majority view in Europe. What do the others think?

Greg on :

Of course, Europe won't send troops, you are correct. Perhaps Europe could, I don't know, start speaking out against what the Mahdi and AQI are doing in Iraq, instead of constantly speaking out against the American effort, which is the only good effort in Iraq (even if it's not working). The Americans aren't the bad guys in Iraq - Sadr and AQI are. But you wouldn't know that from reading European newspapers or listening to European politicians.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

It is so obvious that Mahdi and AQI are bad. Thus it is useless to criticize them. I could also criticize North Korea all day. Would not make a difference. So you want us to criticize the bad guys as a form of moral support for the US? I have heard this many times before and I understand where this is coming from: Frustration of all the criticism from Europe in the last few years. Okay, but there has not been that much criticism re Iraq lately, just some pessimistic reports, but you have them in the US media as well. I think it is sad that the only thing that you (can) expect from Europe is moral support. "constantly speaking out against the American effort, which is the only good effort in Iraq (even if it's not working)." What do you mean by "speaking out"? Got an idea: The EU could organize a peace conference, i.e. invite all of Iraq's neighbors, incl. Iran's Ahmadinejad and Syria's Assad. And also Al Sadr and other Iraqi warlords. The chances for such a conference are slim, but we got to try everything. [b][i]We need more dialogue by all power players in Iraq and the region.[/i][/b] My hunch, however, is that the United States would be against such a conference with the bad guys as guests. Thus it won't be just the bad guys, who refuse, but also the United States, who does not want Europe to interfere.

Greg on :

By "speaking out" I mean simply condemning the attacks and the people who perpetrate them, instead of blaming all the bloodshed on the "occupation." I know I'm asking a lot here. Or perhaps to simply stop vilifying our efforts there, which if perhaps misguided, were not motivated by evil intentions. As to the conference, I see inviting Iran and Syria to the table like inviting bin Laden to a conference on how to prevent terrorist attacks. Instead, we should be mining the border b/w Iraq & Iran and b/w Iraq & Syria. And in any case, the US, through many channels, have spoken with these 2 discpicable regimes and it hasn't shown any progress. Surprise! They aren't interested in peace in Iraq. Quite the contrary. But the EU seems to like long discussions that result in no progress, so they can knock themselves out.

Don S on :

Joerg, the subtle approach doesn't work very well. Europe remains silent in the face of overwheming evil but will endlessly critique, muddle, and villify the US for every transgression. For a case study consider Abu Ghraib before and after March 2003. I'll readilly admit that there was a (very) occasional piece decrying what Saddam was doing there, but compare the weight of coverage Saddam's mass murders there recieved compared to the weight of coverage given the US torture story. Saddams torture were at least 3 orders of magnitude greater than Lynndie Englandd & compatriots, but recieved 3 orders of magnitude LESS coverage. This is not a problem exclusive to Europe of course - CNN, the NY Times, and most of the big international 'news' purveyors act similarly. Should we try for a more accurate definition and call them propogandists? But Europeans are a big part of the self-reinforcing cycle of destructive propoganda. You wonder why Germany gets so much abuse from people like me and Japan gets little? It's because the Japanese are not seen as adding to this cycle while Germans take a huge part in it. That is why.

Zyme on :

The concept of media is not to present an equal amount of violence across the world. It is about providing their audience with "news" - typically something you do not expect. In a dictatorship like Iraq under Hussein, everyone expects those to disappear, which are part of the opposition to the regime. So reporting about their treatment is no "news". But when the force invading Iraq partially because of "liberating" the population is actually torturing those who shall be "liberated" - well what bigger kind of news can you actually find?

JW-Atlantic Review on :

@ Don So you want Europeans to say that the US is better than Saddam and Al Qaeda? Isn't that pretty ridiculous statement? Next thing we have to say that sunshine is better than rain... Do you really want us to put the US and Saddam and Al Qaeda on the same level and then say who is better? [b]I think the US deserves to be hold to a higher standard than Saddam, Al Qaeda etc. [/b] And this is what our press is doing. The only thing I acknowledge is: The German press holds the US to a higher standard than France, Britain etc. That is wrong.

Anonymous on :

"Do you really want us to put the US and Saddam and Al Qaeda on the same level and then say who is better?" That is what you do all the time. The conclusions are interesting - to say the least. OBL and Al Qaeda are explained, often sympathetically, and 'justified' is not too strong a word for what I often see. The US is allowed no latitude at all. Our enemies may do anything at all - we are allowed nothing but paralysis. The transgressed rights of a single German citizen who *may* have been a terrorist collaberator are *far* more important than the risks he may pose to millions of innocent Westerners. *Far* more important than massive acts of destruction by terrorists. Judging by the weight of coverage, at least. 2I think the US deserves to be hold to a higher standard than Saddam, Al Qaeda etc." Oh, and it is, it is. Saddam, Al Qaeda, Sudan et all are held to no standards whatever - the US is met with a mediastorm about the most trivial supposed (and sometimes fictional) transgression. Remember the 'defiled Koran' scandal at G-Bay? Or the way the Abu Ghraib II story jumped back on to the front pages 2 years after it broke because *new* pictures had been found? Meanwhile massive disasters and genocides (Darfur, Zimbabwe, Abu Ghraib I) go largely unreported. The rule isn't that if 'it bleeds it leads'. Blood is uninteresting unless it can be pinned to Bush or Blair, and then the quantity doesn't matter - its on the front pages. That is why it's not news, it's propoganda, Joerg.

Zyme on :

This is OT - wouldn´t it be very informative to present an article on the current approach of the transatlantic governments towards the war on terror? What are the current tendencies in the american political class? This is especially interesting because I remember many americans complaining about the lax european political will to fight the war on terror. Now after the Glasgow terrorist incident, the german minister of inner affairs Wolfgang Schäuble in an interview at "Der Spiegel" has started a discussion about: - treating potential terrorists as prisoners of war, who can be preemptively detained - or even killing them - as well as the introduction of the so called "online searching" (the introduction of a "federal trojan horse" to scan the hard drives of so called "endangerors") - and about further range of use of our army within our borders On the one hand these proposals have earned harsh criticism from the Opposition as well as the governing Social-Democrats, who believe that these measurements can only be enacted in a police state. On the other hand they received support from high ranking leaders of the also governing Christian-Democrats, who want to change the constitution accordingly. Chancellor Merkel today announced that she does not consider Schäuble to be "frivolous" and thinks he has made these proposals after thoughtful consideration. Due to the "undenieable terrorist threat" every kind of thought should be permitted, she said, while also stressing that regarding the war on terror "we should differentiate between short-term projects and long-term advisements". I remember a discussion we had here several months ago about the effects a big terrorist strike in Germany would have. Back then I guessed that we would probably not want to make any prisoners among the responsible terrorists. Most of the participants considered this to be out of the question. Yet we have a political discussion about this problem today even before the first big strike occured. A discussion though, which is reserved to the political class. Aside from it, no bigger movement in the society seems to be interested. It will be intersting to listen the political leaders regarding this topic in the coming weeks - and (should such a sad case actually happen) after a real strike.

bob on :

If Islamic terror continues in a more successfully implemented manner, I would assume that European governments will take a much harsher line than the Americans have toed post 9.11. Depending on how bad it gets, my assumption would be that governments would use international law as a theoretic basis for domestic actions instead of relying upon domestic Constitutional or European law. I would expect the Germans to do what the Bush administration lacked the courage to; namely, declare terrorists 'hostis hominum' like pirates in the 17th century or slave traders in the beginning of the 19th. By extension, any government harbouring or aiding terrorists would be committing an act of war against the international community. This is the idea Bush was attempting to muddle through with in his often deliberately "misunderstood" 'you are with us or against us' speech. Legally, I think it might work if all the European nations declared the same memorandum of understanding with US, Russian, China and India supporting. The BVG still holds last I checked on the primacy of German law over European law and the GG does directly subsume public international law into the GG without the need for incorporative legislation. Germany would have to withdraw from the Protocol on the 4th Geneva convention in '77 to create expedient jucidical tribunals and enforce the death penalty. Or the new High Commissioner for the EU could issue a statement if the treaty/Constitution/boondoogle actually passes.

Zyme on :

Of course you are talking about a possible way -after- a big strike occured in Germany. Then pretty much everything is possible. I am willing to bet that the majority of the population would want the responsible ones to hang. And this might eventually lead to a bigger defense spending as well.

ADMIN on :

Please note that by default the comments in this blog are threaded rather than linear, i.e. some of the latest responses to comments are not at the bottom, but in the middle of the thread right behind the comment they respond to. At the top of the comments section you have the option to [b]change the view from threaded to linear[/b] (=chronological), which enables you to see the latest comments at the end of the thread.

chaz on :

It occurs to me, to be honest, that there is very little indication that a troop withdrawal in name will actually mean a disengagement from Iraq or if that would even be a good thing to begin with. Hillary has recently extended her phased withdrawal plan, Barack seems bent on staying in the region despite his aversion to the conflict in general. Dems might force “withdrawal” but their foreign policy platforms give us no indication of a change in approach. Check out what this website is saying [url]http://www.atlantic-community.org/index.php/articles/view/The_Next_American_President%3A_Democratic_Foreign_Policy[/url] Looks like the international community might finally understand that American foreign policy is pretty consistent and that this Iraq thing was not an aberration, just a more visible failure.

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