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WHY WE MUST LEAVE IRAQ
By Larry C. Johnson
Sometimes in life there are no good options. It is part of our nature to always assume that we can fix a problem. But in life there are many problems or situations where there is no pleasant solution. If you were at the Windows on the World Restaurant in the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 9 am on September 11, 2001 you had no good options. You could choose to jump or to burn to death. Some choice.
A hard, clear-eyed look at the current situation in Iraq reveals that we are confronted with equally bad choices. If we stay we are facilitating the creation of an Islamic state that will be a client of Iran. If we pull out we are likely to leave the various ethnic groups of Iraq to escalate the civil war already underway. In my judgment we have no alternative but to pull our forces out of Iraq. Like it or not, such a move will be viewed as a defeat of the United States and will create some very serious foreign policy and security problems for us for years to come. However, we are unwilling to make the sacrifices required to achieve something approximating victory. And, what would victory look like? At a minimum we should expect a secular society where the average Iraqi can move around the country without fear of being killed or kidnapped. That is not the case nor is it on the horizon.
We may even be past the point of no return where we could impose changes that would put Iraq back on course to be a secular, democratic nation without sparking a major Shiite counteroffensive. Therefore the time has come to minimize further unnecessary loss of life by our troops and re-craft a new foreign and security policy for the Middle East.
The Current Situation:
Iraq has devolved into a tri-partite state, split among the Kurds in the North, the Shias in the South, and Sunni tribes in the middle. While things are relatively peaceful in the North and South, the central part of Iraq is in the grips of a defacto civil war. Most of the trained and deployed Iraqi police and military forces are Shia. Most of their operations are directed against Sunni targets. The Sunnis do not feel that they have a legitimate voice in the political process. As a result they have decided to fight.
The Shia majority, long oppressed in Iraq, are not willing, nor likely, to relinquish their new status as the tops dogs. They are receiving significant intelligence, economic, and political support from the Islamist government in Iran. The Shia also are well positioned to control a significant portion of Iraq’s vast oil resources. They are not likely to share this wealth with the Sunnis.
There is no effective national government in Iraq. The current group meeting inside the Green Zone to draft the constitution has no real clout. True power is held by tribal chieftains and religious leaders scattered around country. Those leaders are playing both sides of the fence—keeping a toe in the political negotiations in Baghdad while providing money and protection to insurgents.
The insurgency in Iraq is comprised of at least 20 groups. Some of these are Baathists, some are Sunni Islamic extremists, and a few are Shia. They agree on one thing—the United States is an invader and must be expelled. While there is no single leader who can claim the status or mandate as did Ho Chi Minh during the Vietnam days, the insurgents in Iraq are as firm and serious as those we faced in Vietnam.
The continued presence of U.S. combat forces and our operations against Iraqi civilians is recruiting new jihadists from around the Muslim world. Notwithstanding U.S. efforts to win the “hearts and minds