War supporters - at what point would you call for withdrawal?

Somewhat inspired by things I read in this thread.

It seems to me that lately there’s been a growing sentiment that it’s time to get the troops out of Iraq, and damn the consequences. The antics of Cindy Sheehan are sort of illustrative of this, and I’ve seen one poll cited here a number of times that indicates that the majority of Americans now oppose the war. However, the war of course still has its vocal defenders. In the spirit of bipartisan understanding, I’d like to pose the following question to them: What would it take to convince you that it was time to take our ball and go home?

Now, I realize that this is somewhat of a thorny question. Would a certain event be the determining factor a la the Tet Offensive? Or is there a certain number of casualties at which we become averse to continuing the fight? Obviously, it’s hard to draw lines here, but it seems that many on this board have already drawn their own lines in the sand and seen them crossed. So, war supporters, where are yours? Will nothing short of total victory convince you? Or do we all agree that there are some fights that aren’t worth continuing?

I really don’t mean for this to be an ambush, so I would request that those who believe we should withdraw the troops at this point please be thoughtful in their responses. Secondarily, I ask of them: When did the Iraq war become too much for you to stomach (or jump the shark, if you will excuse the phrase)? Was there a defining event for you?

Personally, I opposed the war prior to the invasion, but felt that it was only right to see it through to the bitter end once we got in. I’m not sure if I still feel that way, and I certainly understand that there must come a time when I feel we are just throwing lives away–but I’m not wholly convinced we’re at that point yet. At the very least, I feel we owe it to the Iraqis to try and fix the mess we’ve created, but I am increasingly pessimistic about our ability to do so. At any rate, I am open to suggestion from either side. Your thoughts?

(Apologies if everyone is sick of talking about Iraq, or if this thread has been done before… a cursory search yielded nothing for me.)

If it became clear that the Iraqi’s were immature children who couldn’t be trusted ot handle democracy, then I would say screw 'em all. I do not think this is likely. In any event, your scenario is largely immaterial now. They will soon form a government and consitution of their own making, and their own troops are becoming more and more capable of taking on the enemy, for it is their enemy as well. In short, we’ve already won.

Within another year or two, they will no longer need our help at all. We will probably keep a military base on Iraqi soil, but we will no longer engage in combat operations. Also, given the change in enemy tactics, composition, and material, I suspect they will not be able to maintain this operational tempo forever, while we can if neccessary. On the one hand, they are making more sophisticated weapons. They have to, because their previous weapons are being rendered inadequate. This has also made them more vulnerable, with longer supply chains. They are also destroying their only sympathy (the Sunni element) group. More to the point, operationally, they seem to have fewer fighters who are less eager to engage us. In fact, most of our casualties come not from attacks by the enemy but positive operations to drive them out of an area.

Check out the 4th poll from the top concerning the sentiment that we should pull all the troops out. The % of Americans who want to get completely out has bounced around in the mid-20s for awhile, but the latest number is 33%. One data point does not a trend make, so it might be premature to say there is a “growing sentiment”. There’s been more press converage of this idea, due to the Cindy Sheehan effect, but that’s an entirely different thing.

Frankly, though, I think it is just unrealistic to be talking about withdrawl. AFAIK, only one Sentator has taken that position so far.

But… we certainly should be talking about reducing troop levels. I agree with Bush that we should not announce any timetables, but one has to wonder why we haven’t been able to start drawing down the troop levels yet. Many of our soliders over there are quite young-- 19, 20, 21 years old. Surely they don’t have a whole hell of a lot of training, so how many years until some US “grunts” can start coming home? Are the language barriers such that it’s just too difficult to have some Iraqi units operating alongside US units? I fully expect our highly trained officers and enlisted personell to be the last to leave, but when can the privates start coming home?

I supported the war because it had the possibility to improve the lives of the Iraqi people. But I do think that their current social views are pretty much going to end them up with having a democracy for three months until the head of the military leads a coup and we get to start the whole thing over again (or something along those lines–essentially that the Iraqi people end up with a mean-spirited dictator no matter what, even if under the guise of democracy.)
I don’t think that there will be benevolent government there without a non-corrupt government leading them for long enough that enough people have been promoted up all the various ladders based on skill and moral values instead of bribes and connections. And hopefully for a new generation to grow up who has seen that their future will depend on skill and morality instead of bribes and connections.

So, I wouldn’t call for a withdraw at any period. I would say put it down in writing that we’re going to oversee the country for twenty years, but at that point you would absolutely pull out.

As with Smiling Bandit, it would be when I came to the conclusion that there was no real chance that the Iraqis were going to be able to build and maintain something resembling a liberal democracy (or else that there was nothing more we could do to help them in that effort).

Were we to reach that point, and we withdrew and Iraq became a theocracy or a dictatorship, I would fully expect to start seeing regular terrorist attacks on American and European soil.

Not sure if I’m a war supporter anymore, though I don’t believe we should tuck tail and run away at this point either. I think that we should wait to decide to start bringing the troops home until it becomes appearent that the Iraqi’s either are not going to ratify a constitution and hold general elections, or if it becomes clear that general election or no either the militia’s are show to hold the majority of the power in Iraq post-election (this is where I fear things are headed) or that the new Iraqi government has no popular support of the Iraqi people and can’t hold together. At that point I think the US will have done what we can to rectify our disasterous invasion and we can then tuck tail and run home to mama. Gods knows what that will do to the Iraq and the ME…I guess it doesn’t matter as long as we bring the troops home and Bush looks as bad as he can.


That doesn’t really answer the question, though, does it? There are a lot of people who would argue that we’ve already long since passed that point. What would it take for you to become one of them?

From a practical standpoint, yes. I don’t think the level of public pressure is anywhere near where it needs to be for that to happen. All I am implying is that this pressure appears to be growing (although you are probably correct in saying it is too early to tell).

Very well then, let us treat it as a hypothetical exercise for the sake of argument. At what point will we know whether the Iraqis are capable of installing or willing to install a democracy? Xtisme suggests it is the election and perhaps the interval immediately after… would you be willing to pull troops out if participation is low? If there is significant rioting in response to the outcome?

At any rate, I disagree with some of your premises–“soon” is a very unspecific term. In light of the delays facing the National Assembly’s progress on the Iraqi Constitution and the absence of Sunni approval of the recent draft, does your assessment change? (Link) Or are these merely the growing pains of a budding democracy?

I suspect most of the people who think we’ve already reached that point (or at least the smarter ones) didn’t arrive at that conclusion because of one single event. Similarly, I can’t give you a single test.

Some things that would move me:

– If I started seeing frequent, large-scale demonstrations for shiara law (a la Iran 1979) and/or some populist strongman.
– If people I regard as “good guys” start quitting en masse (the recent “resignation” of the Mayor of Baghdad was one of the worst signs I’ve seen in awhile).
– If we started seeing large-scale ethnic violence (i.e., 100s and 1000s killed).
– Knowledgable people whose opinions I respect start calling it a lost cause
– If the majority of the troops started concluding it is a lost cause, or stop saying that most of the Iraqis support us.

Since, to me, the real test is going to be getting a constitutional Iraqi government in place and then giving it a real chance to do its job, it’s hard to imagine things getting to the “I give up” point for at least a year.

Pretty much what Furt said.

The Iraqi’s risked death to vote and that means a lot to me. I don’t want to abandon the only chance of Democracy in the region. And that’s what Zarkowi is fighting against, Democracy.

If you look at the political changes in the region a lot has taken place in recent years.

  • The Taliban has been pushed out of Afghanistan and a Democratic government is replacing it.
  • Libya shut down it’s nuclear weapons program
  • The US moved out of Saudi Arabia
  • Siria moved out of Lebanon.
  • Israel moved out of Gaza.

I’m not sure all of the above are connected.

Personally, I’d get the troops out now.

I did not support the war (demanding as I did proof via Hans Blix first), but my answer to the question is decades.

The insurgent Anbar province is collectively waiting for the exodus to unleash full civil war:

We broke it. We must stay until we can be sure it will not get even worse upon our exodus.

I agree with this. If you think it is bad now, wait and see how bad it can get if we pull out too early.

If nothing else, we stay in Iraq to keep these developments moving forward. Even anti-Bush political analysts credit the war in Iraq as influencing these changes, at least in part.

So you would have pulled out of WWII when the Nazi’s started gassing the Jews? I think preventing ethnic cleansing is one of the biggest reasons we should stay.

When do we leave? When the democratically elected leaders of Iraq ask us to go.

OK. Let’s say next year the democratically elected leaders of Iraq demand all US troops leave their soil. No permanent military bases. Not one American soldier, even as an advisor to the new Iraqi army. Do we do that? How about if they decide to integrate Sharia more tightly into their laws, and throw out all foreign corporations, so that the oil industry, etc., is wholly owned by the state?

It’s just that I hear a lot of people saying that we’ll leave as soon as the Iraqis ask us to, and for the life of me I just cannot believe that the Bush administration would agree to give up their new foothold in the middle East.

I know it may not seem perfect, but take a look at it. They’ve had free and more or less fair elections, ignored only by those who were making money hand over foot in the old regime. They’re having a constitutional convention. I think that the potential for a theocracy is worrying, but the facts do not suggest that Iraq will follow Iran. Despite some use of old Islamic law, it does not appear to have power over the secular government.

Actually, I think they’re moving too fast. They should set up an interim Constitution and meet back in three years for a full one. Delays are normal. This isn’t growing pains - their still in labor!

This one is key. And to all appearances, the Shi’a and Kurds - and increasingly the Sunni, are very welcoming to us. The Us has treated them remarkably well and they know it, having a history which recent and otherwise full of tyrannical conquerers. Even those servicemen who

Look, I don’t really like to deal in hyptheticals. As it stands right now, even most of the Shi’a clerics don’t seem to support an Iranian-style theocracy. And it’s not going to happen in a year or in ten. While I disagree with the Mullah’s of Iran, they had a tyrannical government which the US supported for Cold War reasons, and that led a huge swing to the only effective opposition. Note that the only other Islamist government in Asia came about because of tribal fighting in Afganistan.

What? This is Iraq, yes?

If this is “welcoming”, I’d hate to see “peevish”.

You mean our erstwhile allies Saudi Arabia?

well, my point was that if the Shia, Sunnis and Kurds basically seem to decide they don’t want to live together, I see no reason to force them to. During WWII, it was feasible for us to conquer Germany and end the Holocust; if ethnic cleansing breaks out in Iraq, it will be after we’ve already invaded and in spite of our best efforts to stop it. If civil war is taking place of course we should try to stop it; but if we can’t, I’d advocate a strategic withdrawal. I see no point in spending blood once I already know the hill is lost.

They seemed to be living together OK before the invasion. If the invasion ultimately caused the civil war, do the invaders not have a moral obligation to stay and do whatever they can to ameliorate that damage, even for deacades?

I would suggest that the situation has some parallels to Northern Ireland. Originally welcomed, British security forces eventually became targets after some monumental fuck ups which killed innocent civilians. Since immediate withdrawal would have caused untold bloodshed in a bloody sectarian war, the only option was to spend trillions over several decades until something like a civilised democracy could emerge.

If it takes trillions and decades in Iraq, so be it. Running away from a civil war we caused would be craven cowardice.

(Perhaps) ironically, I disagree with you on this one SM. Whether we should stay in Iraq or not depends on what the Iraqi’s do in the next few months. If they can’t get together well enough to write a constitution and hold general elections for instance, I don’t see any point in the US ‘staying the course’ because its extremely unlikely they EVER will get it together. By the same token if the Iraqi’s can’t find an internal formula to keep their militia’s in check and under control (and the only way is to find it in themselves to form a strong central government generally accepted by the people…and one able to defend itself and the people) then there is no point in us staying.

As much as we’ve fucked this whole thing up, we can only take so much of the blame for the post-invasion fiasco going on in Iraq. The Iraqi’s themselves need to take on some of the blame for whats happened…and some of the responsiblity for fixing it (assuming it can be fixed…gods know). If they can’t come together and find some common ground then they will break apart and the blood shed will be horrific. To paraphrase: Either they (at least the big three groups, Sunni, Shi’ite and Kurd) find a way to hang together or surely they will hang apart.