Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Iraq withdrawal

We believe it is time to declare ourselves on the question of the day. Here is Effect Measure's position on the public health catastrophe that is the Iraq mistake:

The governments of the US and the UK should immediately announce an imminent date (we suggest December 16, the day after this month's vote in Iraq), at which time they will begin the withdrawal of all military forces and their paid contractors to bases outside the region or to the continental US. Full withdrawal could be finished by the first half of 2006.

FAQ about this position

Won't Iraq descend into chaos if we create a power vacuum?

You mean descend further into chaos? Maybe. It is already heading in that direction, so we are talking about the speed of descent. There is already a power vacuum, as we don't exert effective power over much of the country. Personnel can't even move freely within the highly protected Green Zone any longer. The Kurdish regions are already semi-autonomous and will likely improve once foreign military are gone. The same may be true of the Shiite south, around Basra.

Won't this precipitate a civil war, with Shiites fighting Sunnis fighting Kurds fighting Baathists, etc.?

No. You can't precipitate something that has already started. In case you haven't noticed, there is already a civil war going on, made worse by "outside forces," of which the primary ones are the US and the UK. Besides the deaths of combatants, independent estimates are that the post invasion risk of violent death is more than 50 times higher in the civilian population compared to a year prior to it. The Lancet study conservatively estimates 100,000 Iraqi deaths as a result of the invasion. Aerial bombardment and modern high power weaponry has been a major factor in this death toll. There is reason to believe that if fighting continues it will be with means less liable to cause mass casualties. In any event, it isn't likely we will see increased suicide bombing in the kind of civil war that would be conducted in the absence of US and UK troops.

Substitution of aerial bombardment for ground troops to "support" the Iraqi military is not a solution but would multiply civilian deaths. It is universally known to be ineffective against an insurgency.

Won't this allow Iraq to become a haven for terrorists?

Look again. It already is a haven for terrorists and we are making more by the day with our noxious presence there.

Won't the US "lose face" by cutting and running?

You mean lose more face than by its incompetent and immoral current position? Maybe. But Iraqis shouldn't be punished for our shameful errors.

Don't we owe the Iraqis something after having despoiled their country?

Absolutely. When the situation stabilizes we should compensate them with massive amounts of aid, which might be funneled through a new framework of non-aligned countries to coordinate a crisis response during a post-war transition period. Everyone knows we wouldn't do this, of course, since the welfare of the Iraqi people is not our main objective.

Won't immediate withdrawal mean that all the US, UK and Iraqi lives lost have been in vain?

Yes. More wasted lives won't change this.

So that's where we stand. Here is where the current democratic wannabes stand (Roll Call via DailyKos):
Bayh: find realistic way to define success, then set benchmarks

Edwards: was "wrong". Wants "significant" reduction of troops after elections early next year. He'd tie the proportion of troops withdrawn to benchmarks set for Iraqi soldier performance.

Biden: no withdrawals until political situation improves, but sees 100K troops back home by '07. Does not rule out more troops if necessary. Wants admin to come clean about targets for Iraqi troop training. More civillian staff in Iraq.

Clark: add civillian component; consider adding troops; adjust the mix on the ground; establish clear benchmarks for training

Clinton: No immed. withdrawal, no troop increase, set specific benchmarks for training Iraqi forces and make it clear to Iraq that the US's military committment is limited.

Feingold: 12/31/06 is a "target date" for troops to come home. But he's flexible.

Kerry: begin drawn down of 20K troops after elections in Dec and continue if successful.

Richardson: "It is now time for the military commanders to design a phased, definitive withdrawal plan."

Warner: No immed. withdrawal, no troop increase, set specific benchmarks for Iraqi forces. Eschews "debating the past."
With regard to democratic candidates, we also adopt the position of The Nation:
The Nation ... takes the following stand: We will not support any candidate for national office who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq a major issue of his or her campaign. We urge all voters to join us in adopting this position.
A few of the many previous Effect Measure posts on Iraq can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.