What exactly will happen when we leave Iraq, and why is it not as bad as staying?

This question was triggered by a quote from a conservative columnist:

Now, I know from past arguments here that the idea is that we’ll do LESS damage by leaving than we will by staying, that either way, there’ll be slaughter and, yes, maybe even genocide (given the ethnic and religious hatreds in the area), but that our presence will only increase those deaths.

But that got me thinking: what exactly will happen when we leave Iraq, and how do you think it compares to the consequences of staying? I realize that this depends on timeline, so feel free to pick/specify one: as soon as you (meaning you, the reader) wants us to, the instant it becomes politically practical to do so, this time next year, etc. The contrast I want to draw is with the “as long as it takes to accomplish the mission and stabilize things” plan of conservatives and Republicans.

I know that no one says that there would be NO bad consequences to pulling out - no one thinks that the instant we’re gone, it’ll be all sunshine and roses and kumbaya. But I’ve seen fairly few direct comparisons to the percieved consequences of staying vs. going, thus this post.

  1. What will happen when we leave: Civil war. Not genocide; perhaps some more “ethnic cleansing” but that’s been going on for years already; but definitely a bloodly civil war. It has already been raging for more than a year.

  2. Why it is not as bad as staying: Because the same thing will happen if we stay. It will just take longer and cost more lives, including American and British lives.

  1. What will happen if we leave immediately: bloody and horrific slaughter, worse than it is now, killing more people and bringing down the government.

  2. Why it is not as bad as staying: because it can be blamed on Bush.


I don’t think it will happen regardless of which party is in the White House but what we ought to do is end our physical presence over there (we have no legitimacy and are never going to be viewed as having proper business in Iraqi affairs) while still funding operations, those operating being handed over to other countries, preferably a very mixed consortium, to mop up the mess we made.

One day, we will leave. Maybe a Democrat will be President, maybe a Republican will be President, makes no difference, one day we will leave.

And then the shitstorm will begin. After the Shiites put an end to the insurgency, the only thing that will be left of Al Qaeda in Iraq will be a greasy stain in the sand, so we have that to look forward to. Staying only prolongs the agony while draining our economy and killing our young.

Those who say we cannot afford to leave are like compulsive gamblers, who want to roll the dice just one more time to win back the rent money.

Certain people once assured us that the Iraqi people longed for democracy and only needed a slight opportunity to turn their country into an earthly paradise that would inspire the rest of the Arab world to drop Islam like a hat and become westernized. These same people now tell us that blood will start running down the streets as soon as we leave.

But that’s neither here nor there. Right now numerous militias are vying for control of their little pieces of Iraq. The U.S. Army safeguards a handful of neighborhoods in the whole country, and occasionally arrests a few troublemakers. But by and large, the U.S. Army does nothing and can do nothing to stop the violence. Hence, withdrawing the Army will have very little effect on the level of violence.

Moreover, the mere presence of U.S. troops provokes great anger among the Iraqis, as hostile occupying forces usually do. Whether this anger is causing a lot of violence can’t be said for sure, but it may be a contributing factor.

Also, some (though not all) of the U.S. troops have murdered, robbed, and raped Iraqi civilians. As soon as those troops are gone, that portion of the violence will end.

All in all, removing U.S. troops should decrease the violence.

Lastly, it’s absurd to suggest that Iraq is a democracy as long as 160,000 hostile troops patrol the country, killing any person who they don’t like. With American troops gone, the idea of Iraqi democracy would get a slight boost. Probably not enough to accomplish much, but it can’t hurt.

That was pretty much Kerry’s plan in 2004.

Every one in the world will know that our president has a very small dick.

Anything is better than that.


What exactly will happen when we leave Iraq?

Maybe we’d no longer have to raise the ceiling on the national debt each and every year?
Paulson Urges Congress To Raise U.S. Debt Limit

The $450 billion or so we’ve tossed down the rat hole is gone. We’ll never see it again. If we pull out now, that money won’t be followed by an additional $300 billion before January 2009.
More money down the rat hole is one of the consequences of staying.

There have been all kinds of comparison of the possible consequences of staying vs going that I’ve seen. Its all pure speculation however…so I’m not sure what it is you want here.

As for some folk thinking it will be ‘sunshine and roses’ after we are gone, I would disagree…I think there are people who think that. Regardless, I think a lot of folks underestimate as to just how bad it COULD be if we pulled out. We know how bad it is…but IMHO it could be (and WILL be, again IMHO) very bad indeed. Myself, I think we are looking at something along the lines of what happened in Afghanistan after the Soviet pull out. Maybe worse. The difference being that by and large no one cared what happened in Afghanistan once the Soviets bolted…while several of Iraq’s neighbors (as well as pretty much every country that uses oil in the world) DOES care about what happens there…and who controls the oil. If anyone thinks that the conflagration in Iraq is going to be confined to JUST Iraq if things go tits up, they they haven’t been paying attention very well.

Well…my speculation is that if we leave in the next few years (a reasonably probable event, especially if we are talking a 2-3 year time span), then the most likely event I see is all out civil war in Iraq between the various factions of the Sunni and Shi’ia (against the opposing religious factions and against each other), perhaps with AQ and other foreign interests weighing in on the side of this faction or that one…IOW, complete chaos. To add to the mix (as if this won’t be enough), at a guess the Kurds will attempt to break away once it all drops in the pot…and this will have OTHER repercussions (like, say, with Turkey).

So, we would have a multi-factional fight going on. And what kind of fight? Well, at a guess an extremely vicious one. After all, the various combatants in Iraq have shown ALREADY that they are willing to launch attacks on the other sides civilian population directly. Both are willing to adopt terrorist tactics, suicide bombers, assassination not only of the leaders but of anyone on the opposing ‘side’, etc. I don’t see this trend tapering off once we are gone…quite the opposite in fact. I think all sides will only get MORE vicious once we are gone and the gloves really come off.

On the other side of things we have the US staying. I think that what we have now will pretty much continue…Iraq will be at a constant, low level boil, and never really heal. In fact, I think that even if we DO stay things will escalate in violence…only more slowly. We will continue to take casualties, the Iraqi’s will continue to have more and more violence, and the Iraqi government will continue to not get its shit together.

Which is better? Its hard to say since this is pure speculation. I know that for the US’s short term interests this is pretty much a no-brainer…it would be MUCH better if we declared victory and got out of dodge, leaving the Iraqi’s to pay the piper. Long term its definitely in our interest to figure out how to keep Iraq from flying apart until we figure out how to not need oil anymore.

For the Iraqi’s I think that its not so cut and dried. Honestly I’d have to say, again, that it depends…this time it depends on who in Iraq we are talking about. I would speculate that the Iraqi’s currently in charge, as well as those who are friendly to the US (if there are any of those left) would be force to either flee the country or pose for gunfire once we tuck tail. In addition my guess is whoever loses are not going to be happy campers under whatever new regime arises. I guess that means for SOME Iraqi’s it would be better if we stayed (for those who lose)…for others (whoever eventually wins) it would be better if we get out of dodge asap so they can get on with the killing…and hopefully the healing afterward.

Its a dogs dinner all around, and anyone who is deluding themselves that if only the US will bolt OR stay is going to solve all the problems is living in a fantasy world. There ARE no good options at this point IMHO…only less evil options.


It’s nice to see you’re finally coming around to our point of view on this.

I think **xtisme ** got it right, especially in his mention of foreign actors. The absolute worst-case scenario, if we withdraw, is that this turns into a regional war. It is easy to see how it could happen–Shia greatly outnumber Sunni in Iraq, and so it could turn into a real slaughterhouse. But neighboring countries sympathetic to the Sunnis (e.g., Saudi Arabia) aren’t going to sit on their hands while their co-religionists are being slaughtered, so will at least help arm the Sunnis. The Iranians, who are bucking for greater regional influence, might decide to intervene on behalf of the Shias, Turkey might take advantage of the confusion to enter northern Iraq on the pretext (not entirely fabricated) that it is a haven for PKK terrorists, etc., etc. The result–a very nasty regional war.

It’ll be quite bad when we go.

In the absence of some plausible plan for improving things, we are doing more harm than good there, and the longer we stay, the more blood we’ll have on our own hands, and the more recruits to radical Islamism we’ll have helped create, and the worse it will be when we do go.

I think we could create the kind of victory Bush et al described if we put 500,000 to 1,000,000 troops there and funded them more intensely for perhaps 5 or 10 years. This isn’t impossible, and we’d certainly do that and more if our own security really required it, but it’s nowhere near worthwhile in the view of most voters. What is our ethical obligation to straighten things out? How free should the region’s people be to create what we think would be a miserable nightmare for their future? Damned if I know. All the options have been ugly at least since Bush Sr was describing this in his memoirs.

The second statement is so wrong on so many levels, it is hard to know how to respond to it. I will only point out that in fact it is easier to blame things on Bush if we stay since we are following exactly the course of action that he recommends. If the Dems force us to start to leave then what will happen is that immediately history will be rewritten so that we were just on the verge of winning…and it was only those spineless Democrats that prevented that from happening and produced all of the carnage we now see. If only we had stayed another few months, Iraq would have been a land of piece and prosperity and the Iraqi people would have been showering our troops with roses and building statues of G.W. in every town square. (To this day, one sees people on the Right essentially rewriting Vietnam in this way.)

First of all, civil wars are not the same as genocide. Both sides in Iraq are well enough armed and organized, and are large enough, that genocide is unlikely. Justifying the war on these grounds shows how ethically bankrupt the right is.

Intervention to stop genocide usually involves the genocide already happening. In Iraq, we created the situation where the killing could happen. If intervention made a situation worse, certainly the interveners should think of leaving. We don’t appear to be decreasing the bloodshed, so it’s not obvious we make things better by staying.

Finally, where does the solution lie? It has to be a political solution - either power sharing or partition. Our presence doesn’t seem to be advancing a solution, so we can hope that our leaving, maybe slowly, would force the Iraqis to face the situation at last. Those in power now like the status quo, and Bush doesn’t seem to want to change it, so can anyone see a way a political solution will emerge from our continued presence? It hasn’t so far.

I think there’s a fatal flaw in this sort of reasoning: That the US military can stop a regional war from beginning while we are occupying Iraq. Turkey and the Kurds are already going at it, and we’re already stuck in the middle.

So, thinking about it again, maybe you’re right: If we leave, there will be a regional war.

If we stay, then there can be a WORLD war! Fabulous! Won’t it be great when NATO allies are firing on each other?

Are you saying that Bush is staying in Iraq because it’s a profit deal?

Turkey has not and will not formally invade northern Iraq as long as the US remains there. As for the Turks and Kurds ‘going at it’, they have been doing so for quite a long time now. If we leave however all bets are off…the only think that will prevent the Turks from rolling through northern Iraq is possibly their pending admittance to the EU.

:dubious: This is a truly staggering leap of logic (or something) here. How do you figure that if we stay there will be a world war? Is it your suggestion that Turkey will attack the US in Iraq? Or attempt a full scale invasion of northern Iraq to get at the Kurds while we are there? What do you base this on? Even assuming for a moment that this snow ball in hell won’t melt, how do you go from that to a full scale world war? Could you amplify a bit because I’m definitely not following your train of thought here…


Yes. He’s an oilman, with all the false promises and bad logic that implies. The war was justified on the basis that the new rulers would hire Halibuton, etc. and repay us with oil revenues. As that slipped away, he is still at the stage of asking “Which path today gives us the most oil in the future?” If they had no oil, we would have been long gone.

Oh, we’ll get it, all right. What else are they going to do with the oil, but pump it and sell it abroad? But U.S. oil companies would no longer be handling it at both ends.

The oil question is more complicated than you might think. Read the quotations in the OP in this thread.