Get Comfortable

There are no two ways around it: we are going to be in Iraq for a very long time, and I wish that the leaders of this country would be honest with the American public about that fact. Regardless of who we elect as our next president, we are going to have tens of thousands of troops in Iraq for decades. I’m not talking about our present 150,000 combat troops, but more like the 50,000 permanent forces we have stationed in South Korea. As a Democrat, it irks me whenever I hear people in my party talking about a total withdrawl of all troops or pledges of no permanent bases in Iraq. Other than in Vietnam, the U.S. has military installations in every single nation it has fought a war in since the Spanish-American War — even in Cuba, for christ’s sake.

Before I go any further, let me first say that the invasion of Iraq will go down as one of this country’s most costly mistakes — perhaps our biggest mistake to date — but that doesn’t mean that a complete withdrawl would make the situation any better. We created the current chaos in Iraq. To invoke Colin Powell, “You break it, you bought it.” We broke Iraq and we as a nation are now responsible for it. Not just the Bush administration — we all are. We let it happen. Our troops over there do not have George W. Bush written on their uniforms — they say U.S. That’s us. Future generations will ask us how we let such a mistake happen. Let’s make sure their next question is not, “And then you decided to just leave?” If you made a mistake, say like starting a wild fire, would you just run away and hope that the fire would go out by itself? What kind of person would that make you? What kind of country would that make us if we just up and left Iraq in its current condition? Are we that irresponsible as a nation?

If we were to leave now, the whole region could explode. You think our current situation in Iraq is bad? Think of Lebanon in the early 1980s, but on a much larger scale. Baghdad is bad but it is not as bad as Beirut in 1983. If we completely withdrew all our forces, the current Iraqi government would collapse. Moqutada Al Sadr’s Mahdi Army would seize control of most of the country, becoming an Iranian puppet regime much like Syrian-controlled Lebanon. The fighting between the Sunni and Shia would greatly intensify. Not wanting to see their brothers slaughtered, Sunni states like Saudi Arabia would fund Sunni militias, probably including Al-Qaeda in Iraq. And the whole world would be lucky if the conflagration stayed contained to the borders of Iraq. If the war widened into a civil war within Islam, it would take place on top of 85 percent of the world’s oil reserves. An all out Iraqi civil war would at the very least shut down all Iraqi oil production, taking 15 percent of the world’s crude reserves out of commission. If gas prices have risen so dramatically in the last few years because of disruptions in Nigeria and Venezuela, a shut down of all Iraqi operations would push prices through the roof, possibly causing a global economic depression. Make no mistake: we are in Iraq because of oil. That was the plan from the start. It’s not right, but you can’t hide from the fact that this entire planet’s civilization is currently fueled by oil.

Oh, and did I mention that Turkey would assuredly invade Kurdistan?

All I’m asking is that if we Democrats expect the former supporters of the Iraqi invasion to admit that they were wrong, then we have to admit that a complete withdrawl is just not possible at this point. Even officials in the Pentagon are now looking at the “go long” strategy. Can we progressives be as open-minded as those free thinkers at the Pentagon?

The best option out there at this point would appear to be bringing home most of our combat forces and transitioning to a smaller, long-term force. This would initially show that the U.S. does not intend to occupy Iraq but that we do not intend to abandon it, either. A phased withdrawl of most combat troops could also be used to force reconciliation within the dysfunctional Iraqi government. The forces that would remain in Iraq would be assigned to protecting the Iraqi government, the training of Iraqi forces, and counter-terrorism Special Forces units.

This is in no way a perfect plan, but perfection only exists on paper. We would still have forces stationed in the Middle East, which would undoubtedly keep fueling anti-American sentiments in the region. And our continued presence is no guarantee that the Iraqi regime will ever stabilize. But it’s our responsibility to at least try. We made this mess; now we have to sit in it and hope for the best.

Get comfortable.

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