We Can't Just Withdraw

NATO AIR

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Are we on the cusp of genocide?

We Can't Just Withdraw


Iraq may be closer to an explosion of genocide than we know.
.....

f only Iraq were like Vietnam. After the 60-day siege of An Loc in the spring of 1972, where heavily outnumbered South Vietnamese troops and their American advisors rebuffed several North Vietnamese divisions, the Saigon government found itself in a superficially strong position, which gave President Richard M. Nixon the fig leaf he needed for a final withdrawal. South Vietnam had rarely been safer since the start of the war. You could travel around the country in relative security. Optimism might have been unwarranted, but it wasn't altogether blind.

More crucially, Vietnam had ultimately two chains of command, the South and North Vietnamese governments. Negotiations through third parties were easily organized, if hard to conduct. Vietnam was merely split, but Iraq is pulverized. To call Iraq a civil war is to be kind: within each sectarian community there is no group really in control. Nouri al-Maliki's government is little more than another faction that adds complexity rather than coherence to the situation.

Because no one is able to monopolize the use of force among either the Sunnis or Shiites, within each community various groups are in fierce competition over who can best defend it, which translates into who can murder more members of the other community. Even formal groupings like Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim's Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army are aggregations of many smaller factions and death squads, whom their leaders don't always control. Only when the political struggle within each sectarian community calms down can the civil war itself be ameliorated. Right now, there is no one on any side with the pivotal power to negotiate with the other.

An emerging school of thought says that the only real leverage we're going to have is the threat of withdrawal, which would concentrate the minds of the various groups to seek modalities with each other for governing the country. That's a bet, not a plan. You could also bet that any timetable for withdrawal will lead to a meltdown of the Iraq Army according to region and sect. Even if we promise that all of our military advisors will stay put, in addition to our air and special operations assets, no one in a culture of rumor and conspiracy theory might believe us.

Because it turned out we had no postwar plan, our invasion (which I supported) amounted to a bet. Our withdrawal, when it comes to that, must be different. If we decide to reduce forces in the country under the current anarchic conditions, then we are both morally and strategically obligated to talk with Iran and Syria, as well as call for a regional conference. Iraq may be closer to an explosion of genocide than we know. An odd event, or the announcement of pulling 20,000 American troops out, might trigger it. We simply cannot contemplate withdrawal under these conditions without putting Iraq's neighbors on the spot, forcing them to share public responsibility for the outcome, that is if they choose to stand aside and not help us.

What we should all fear is a political situation in Washington where a new Congress forces President George W. Bush to redeploy, and Bush, doing so under duress, makes only the most half-hearted of gestures to engage Iraq's neighbors in the process. That could lead to hundreds of thousands of dead in Iraq, rather than the tens of thousands we have seen. An Iran that continues to enrich uranium is less of a threat to us than genocide in Iraq. A belligerent, nuclear Iran is something we will, as a last resort, be able to defend against militarily. And it probably won't come to that. But if we disengage from Iraq without publicly involving its neighbors, Sunni Arabs—who will bear the brunt of the mass murder—will hate us for years to come from Morocco to Pakistan. Our single greatest priority at the moment is preventing Iraq from sliding off the abyss.

A tottering Iraq, informally divided into Iranian and Syrian zones of influence, even as Iran continues to enrich uranium, is an awful prospect. But it is not without possibilities: states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to balance against the new Shiite hegemony, will implicitly move closer to us and to Israel, perhaps providing useful assistance in a settlement of the Palestinian issue. Meanwhile, Teheran and Damascus will become further enmeshed in Iraq's problems. Future violence in Mesopotamia will become their fault; not ours. The weak border between Syria and the fundamentalist Sunni region of Iraq could well undermine the Alawite regime. We will manage.

What we will not be able to manage is a genocide, mainly of the Sunnis, that we alone will be seen as responsible for. Any withdrawal—with all of its military, diplomatic, economic aid, and emergency relief aid aspects—has to be as meticulously planned-out as our occupation wasn't. Staying the course may be a dead end. But don't think for a moment that "redeploying" is any less risky than invading.

The URL for this page is http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200610u/kaplan-withdrawal.
 

manu1959

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We removed an economic dominant minority from power...that is equal to mixing vinegar with baking soda.
that EDM (isn't that what dems are....but i digress) was committing genocide
 

Avatar4321

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There is always a risk. What i cant understand is how we can even consider pulling out after weve seen the consequences of what happened after we pulled out of southeast asia. I dont know about anyone else but id rather not have millions of deaths on American hands again.
 

Gunny

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There is always a risk. What i cant understand is how we can even consider pulling out after weve seen the consequences of what happened after we pulled out of southeast asia. I dont know about anyone else but id rather not have millions of deaths on American hands again.
Lord only knows how we came to be a world power with the collective attention span and resolve of a 3-years-old.
 

manu1959

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Lord only knows how we came to be a world power with the collective attention span and resolve of a 3-years-old.
i think the last time the US was a world power was when regan crushed the USSR economically.....
 

Gunny

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my point was we have not been a world power since....
Mine was we wouldn't have been then if John Q public had to turn his attention away from his self-serving interests for more than a couple of years. Fortunately, Reagan didn't need John Q to get the job done.
 

USMCDevilDog

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If we withdraw now it'll be hell, staying in will be hell too, but in the end if we stay in and hopefully get some shit straightened out then it'll be better then just a cut and run situation. I just pray we can get this shit under control. I haven't seen the Iraqi Gov't doing shit for it's country since it's been created.
 

1549

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that EDM (isn't that what dems are....but i digress) was committing genocide
I don't know about that. You could be right, but the fact that the regime was violent to all makes it hard to distinguish genocide. Either way, it is all the more reason we should have been prepared to stop reverse violence. Historical trends are lost on this administration...
 

90K

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I'm a vet, I'm disable but functional. Do I like how Washington has handled this mess in the M/E? No; do I blame Mr. Rumsfield? President Bush? No but I do blame the system and for not totally supplying our troops (all military in country on land and water) with 100 percent support and fire power to get the job done! That means when things like Abu Grab came into the light of the media, all parties should have been tried that means stars down to stripes! That means going in and cleaning out punks like Al Sadr and flatting the slum! That means closing off the borders and maybe even cutting the country into sections since each faction can't live together, and having separate governments to control those areas. I don't know all the answers but this wasn't going to be a quick in and out mission and these yahoos knew that on both sides. Next the American people need to support our Troops first and keep the media's influence out of the troops minds they have a very important job to do and we the American public hired them to complete that job. All these silver spoon losers in our country like Sheehan need to realize that. We joined our military to learn a trade, get away, start over, get an education, and see the world and to protect our interest when called on. I mean we don't have to do any of that we can easily retreat and set up shop here and be self supporting. But with all these radicals that live in our country how could that really be a real way of life? No matter what is done tomorrow we have troops in the hospitals today who have the memories of a non supporting nation and they have to wear wounds for a lifetime.
So do I like war and its scars? No but we have to have a better and more complete plan with support in Washington or we are wasting everyone’s time and those elected officials need to pack up and go home.
 

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