Cutting and Running in Iraq

Recent polls have showed a declining of support for Iraq in the war, and the stream of politicians coming out against it has increased even further. The general attitude seems to be that the situation is too hopeless, that America has done all it can do, and that it is time to bring these troops home. This attitude has become quite prevalent among Democrats (I note that John Kerry during his campaign did not seem to embrace it though), and has been making inroads among some conservatives.

I am a liberal whom is hardline left on social issues, but moderate/centrist on foreign policy and economic issues.  I originally supported the war, but changed my mind in late 2002 based on realpolitk (I thought he had WMDs, but didn’t think that the benefits outweighed the costs.)  I will say outright that I loathe this attitude.

Quite simply, as far as I am concerned, when America declared war on Iraq, we made a commitment to rebuilding and reconstructing the country.  We did so with full knowledge that we would receive limited international assistance, and with a fairly clear picture available to those whom looked of what reconstruction would be like.  When the war started, polls supported it, and people re-elected the politicians responsible for it.  This has continued even despite the fairly blatant evidence that there were no WMDs and that the terrorist ties were bunk.  Like it or not, even when Americans saw the justifications for the war, they continued to back it.  It was also well-known that the reconstruction and insurgency would almost certainly be brutal, even before we went in.  I do not think that it is fair to assert that Americans would not have supported the war had they known the truth, and if they were duped, they were at the very least complicit in the duplicity.

Thus, I feel that people whom supported the war, with fairly clear knowledge of what it would entail, decided that they were willing to spend the necessary blood and treasure on Iraq to reconstruct it.  Simply because they are now realizing that the price might be higher than their original expectation is no excuse – they reelected the people that gave them these expectations.  If Americans were so concerned about their troops dying and hemorrhaging money, than they should have said so before we bombed Baghdad, or in the 2004 elections.

Moreover, I detest the notion that, after we made this implicit contract to reconstruct Iraq after we went to war, we should bring our troops home whatever the costs to Iraqis.  We chose to involve ourselves in this conflict, and we made a commitment, a choice not given the majority of Iraqis.  Furthermore, I feel that the loss of life should we pull our troops out will be far worse than any such losses while we remain to stabilize things.  Simply because Iraqi deaths are less politically damaging or less emotionally powerful to us is by no means a justification for sacrificing them to remove our own troops (the majority of whom, might I add, also supported Bush and the war).

There is also a widely held belief, particularly prominent among people whom opposed the war from the beginning, that our troops in and of themselves destabilize the country.  That may be true, but I do not think that removing them at this point, with the Iraqi forces in their current state, will assist the reconstruction.  Rather, it will probably lead the deaths of stabilizing political and religious figures, whom will throw Iraq even further into chaos.  Simply because our military leaders have been incompetent in the past by no means allows us to simply throw Iraqis to the wolves.  

In short, the debate I wish to propose regards the current proposals for cutting troop numbers and decline in support for the war in Iraq, as well as my position on it.  I would rather not get into the original justifications for the war, but rather the current state.

Pretty much in agreement of the OP here. I also originally supported the war…at least I felt the war was justified. I also eventually concluded that the war was a stupid thing and regret my original support as I see it as a huge mistake now. However…we are there. Cutting and running at this point will basically pull the rug out from under whats left of Iraq and toss them into the fire. Certainly the war is costing us billions…and the lives of our service men/women which is worse. However, I feel that, at this point, the cost in lives is worth the price…when you consider the deaths that could potentially occur if there is a full out civil war in Iraq. And thats the cost in both US/coalition lives AND Iraqi lives currently, vs what I truely feel will be a holocaust in Iraq if we leave. Thats my real nightmare…that the US will cave to pressure from within and withdraw our troops leaving the Iraqi’s holding the bag and the moderates there posing for gun fire.

In addition, there are mixed reports on how things really are going in Iraq and I STILL think its too soon to claim that all is lost and start looking for a window we can quietly slink out of with our tail between our legs. I was reading an article today (I’ll try and dig it up if anyone cares if I can find it again) where one of our military people there was saying that the insurgency has been basically stable for over a year now…with the rate of attack neither climbing nor dropping. Basically the assessment was that the (potential) democratic government in Iraq is the key…it will all hing on whether it succeeds or fails. And since its still a bit too early to tell if it WILL succeed or fail, I think its too early for the US to even consider tucking tail and bolting.


OK, but what do the Iraqi people want of us now? It’s hard to conduct public opinion polls under the conditions on the ground there at present, of course. My WAG would be, nobody likes to see foreign troops occupying their country, no matter what they had before, and no matter what the troops are there to accomplish. Most Iraqis, regardless of class, ideology, religion or ethnicity, would rather just see the foreign troops leave, and let them sort out their own problems in their own way, even if it takes a civil war to do it. And I think they’d also like to be free to repudiate all the reconstruction contracts imposed on them by the Coalition Provisional Authority – i.e., whoever wins the civil war will control Iraq’s oil industry, and will be under no obligations to Halliburton or anybody else.

I disagree. My own WAG is that most Iraqi’s want the US to stay until a stable government of their own is in place (and then the door can hit us in the ass on the way out)…reguardless of whether that government is democratic or not. I think only the fanatics or those who hope to gain power through force of arms REALLY want the US to leave. Are they happy with us being there? Nope, I seriously doubt that, outside of the Kurdish areas, the US has even a 20% approval rate. But I doubt anyone in Iraq wants the all out civil war that would ensue if the US left right now.


Who’s going to believe us? If we firmly commit to stay in Iraq so long as we deem it necessary, who’s going to believe us? We are advised that the conflict is breaking down upon sectarian lines, Shia vs Sunni. So long as we continue to support the burgeoning Iraqi government, we take sides in that dispute. So in addition to being roundly despised by Muslims in general, we are especially despised by Sunni Muslims. The extra special nasty irony in that, the cherry on top of the shit sundae…the Sunni were likely the most inclined in our favor: the more sophisticated, secular, educated tend to be the Sunni.

It gets worse. We are committed to a democratic, federalist Iraq (or at least these are the noises we have made) That necessarily means supporting Shia dominance because the Shia are the rightful democratic rulers, they are the majority! We cannot appease the Sunni by offering what is not ours to give. The Shia may be perfectly content to accept our money and our weaponry and our soldiers to sacrifice. I am not persuaded that their gratitude will have any permanence. It never does.

I am sensitive to the arguments to our honor and our committment, as offered here. Those are worthy arguments, and positions I have held myself in the months past.

Iraq’s suffering is far from over, I fear. And they are largely our fault. But we have no good reason to believe that our continued presence, even for so noble a purpose as penitence and responsibility, will yield anything but pain.

Enough. We are not buying redemption, or repentence. They cannot be purchased, and frankly, we are tempermentally ill suited for the wisdom to be found. Will we learn from our failure? Yes, but we will likely forget, we did before.

With grave reluctance: enough. But let the authors of this debacle never be trusted again. Ever.

I have another WAG: I have the nasty feeling that there are 2 main factions among the insurgents, I do think there are fanatics that do not want the US to leave. Iraq is their biggest chance to kill Americans or to bog us down. By a perverse twist of fate, everytime they succeed there is an administration in America that then says we should not leave because it will be declared that the terrorist have won. I do wonder if that is not what they wanted in the first place, I still think Osama wanted the US to attack Iraq.

Well, I agree with part of your WAG. I certainly think there are folks in Iraq who are happy we are there…because it gives them a chance to kill American’s without having to go to the expense and trouble of actually coming here to do it. And they get the bonus that it pisses off enough folks in the region with us being there that they get a steady stream of new recruits.

I disagree that ObL wanted the US to attack Iraq. I doubt the possibility ever entered into his head (rationally thinking about it…why exactly WOULD anyone think the US would invade Iraq after 9/11??)…at least not until it was obvious to everyone that the US was in fact going to Iraq. I think ObL’s big plan (another WAG on my part) was to draw us into a war of attrition in Afghanistan much like what happened to the Soviets…and with similar end results, most importantly the result that the US tucks tail and leaves (and takes its nose firmly out of the ME for years to come, withdrawing into a post-Vietnam like shell), with the added bonus that ObL once again is the hero of the day (like he was against the Soviets). The end game for ObL, IMHO, was an Islamic superstate along the Taliban lines…with one ObL seated high up in the firmament of the new government.


I recall no such explicit commitment. We were to be greeted as liberators, and the war over in weeks not months.

Again, cite?
We had no realistic plans for reconstruction. Instead Iraq suffered through a year of incompetence and corruption at the hands of the Coalition Provisional Authority. They hired a lot of young republicans, signed ridiculous cell phone licenses and such, were pitifully slow of the mark on reconstruction, LOST 9 billion dollars, and dissolved with the country’s water and electrical systems in worse shape than when they started.

Do not let your desire to believe that we Americans are a reasonable people cloud your view of what our knowledge was, and intentions were when we were suckered into this conflict.

Bush lacks the will to do what is necessary to achieve his stated goals in Iraq. I don’t care what his generals tell him, we went in woefully unprepared and undermanned. Peace in Iraq cannot be won with doubling the current manpower levels, and it will never happen if left to the Iraqification of the defense forces.

I have always wondered what standard of security the Bush administration expects to have enforced by Iraqi security in order to bring our troops home. If the Iraqis took over today, and maintained the current level of security, with several hundred Iraqis getting blown up every month, would that be acceptable, and allow us to withdraw our forces? If so, how can we expect Iraqi forces to ever reach that level, which is enforced by the best trained, best equipped army in the world? The Iraqis are no where near our level of training, and we are not supplying them as well as we supply our own forces, so how can we expect them to even approach our own dismal level of security?

We are faced with a choice: either increase American forces in Iraq significantly to finish the job we started, or pull up stakes and leave the poor devils to their fate. The status quo is unacceptable, and if pursued, will continue just slaughtering our soldiers and draining our treasury indefinitely. In this respect, it is exactly the same as Vietnam; Bush knows that sending more troops to Iraq is political suicide, and couldn’t be done without instituting the draft, so he is relying on rosy predictions and crossed fingers. A hell of a way to run a war if you ask me.

Peace in Iraq cannot be won **without ** doubling the current manpower levels. Big difference.

How about releasing Saddam and putting him back in power.
Apologise to everyone and get the hell out.
Or is that too far out ?

Just an idea…

One of the lamest ideas I’ve read. Saddam’s gone and good riddance.

I agree with the OP wholeheartedly. People who thought this would be easy, cheap and not cost any lives were living in a state of deliberate denial. The US cannot go anywhere for right now and must bear whatever price to be paid in order to reconstruct this country and create a stable democratic regime.

Do you think Bush has the political will to do what is necessary, or will he just keep doing what we are doing now?

The political will? I don’t think he has the moral will, frankly. I think he just wants to get the country just stable enough for business cronies to make money off of, but doesn’t much care if it gets stable enough that it respects human rights or isn’t massively corrupt or having universal rule of law, even in the rural areas.

But, unfortunately, what we’re doing right now is better than nothing at this point. At least they have a semblance of a democratic government.

Oh yeah, forgot to make this point: either way, putting Hussein or any other dictator back in charge is never the answer.

I’m of the cut-and-run school myself. I would have no objection to our staying if I felt like we were doing the slightest bit of good. But we’re not. American troops can, in an approximate kind of way, keep the bloodshed down, but there’s nothing they can do to build working civil institutions, ethnic harmony, a viable social order. All we can do is prolong the agony. It’s pretty apparent that Iraq is in for a long and bloody civil war. But, you know, prudent people would have thought of that before we went in.

Other way around. The Shi’ites were always, and still are, more supportive of us than the Sunni. The Sunni made out like bandits during Sadaam’s regime, and so they lost the most when he was overthrown. The Shi’ites were glad to see him gone. That’s why resistance to the coalition forces and then new government has been strongest in the “Sunni Triangle”, the area to the northwest of Baghdad where most of the Sunnis live.

Yes, but… (and the problem with Iraq is that there’s a always a “yes, but…”) I don’t think the lines can be so sharply drawn. The Shi’ites were a wee bit pissed when we threw them to the wolves at the end of Gulf War I, and Shi’ite fellow-feeling with Iran is always an X factor. As is American support for Israel, of course. Some Sunnis, meanwhile – secularists and others – see us as a bulwark against the Shi’ites.

This is why mucking around in Iraq is so troublesome – we’re forced into choosing sides, without having a clear idea of what the sides even are.

I disagree. At best, were are fighting to a draw, a long protracted meat grinder that will ultimately destroy the infrastucture and demoralize Iraqis to the point that democracy is impossible. And in the meantime, our soldiers are dying, and our deficit is growing. Not worth it. Shit or get off the pot. Bush prefers constipation.

That will be Dubya’s legacy: “I gave Iraq a semblance of democracy!”

I understand the reluctance to cut and run… it certainly won’t make the US look any better cutting losses. The very presence of US troops is a hindrance to the political change too. So cutting losses later might be even worse ? I doubt escalating vietnam style will solve it either.

Overall I think the game plan in Iraq is terribly wrong and its not being changed. Its one thing to recognize defeat (which Bush and Xtisme deny)… and even worse not changing the “plan” which is plain silly. The US should try something different instead of the “constipation” mentioned in the above post.

So try changing policies or methods... and then cut and run...