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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Strategic Drift in Iraq

A call to reopen the debate over the mission in Iraq and for progressives to "offer a clear challenge" that represents a "a real change in course":

Strategic Drift Where's the Pushback Against the Surge?, by John Podesta, Lawrence J. Korb and Brian Katulis, Commentary, Washington Post: With apparent disregard for the opinion of the American people, the debate over whether the large U.S. military presence in Iraq threatens our national security has been put on hold. Both political parties seem resigned to allowing the Bush administration to run out the clock ... and bequeath this quagmire to the next president. The result is best described as strategic drift, and stopping it won't be easy.

President Bush claims that his strategy is having some success, but toward what end? He argued that the surge would provide the political breathing space needed to achieve a unified, peaceful Iraq. But its successes, which Bush says come from a reduction of casualties in certain areas, have been accompanied by massive sectarian cleansing. The surge has not moved us closer to national reconciliation. ...

Progressives must be careful not to repeat the mistakes made in 2002 and 2004, when they failed to offer a clear challenge or choice on Iraq. Splitting the difference and hedging on positions helped get America into this quagmire. ... Progressive candidates should be offering clarity on Iraq and pushing for a real change in course. ...

Rather than push for a realistic end to U.S. engagement, the Bush administration claims doomsday scenarios would become reality if a phased U.S. withdrawal began. Iraq, it says, would become a terrorist sanctuary, incite regional war or be the scene of sectarian genocide. These arguments are as faulty as those that led us into Iraq, and progressive leaders must push back. ...

The real security problem in Iraq is a vicious power struggle among competing militias and factions. Foreign terrorists are mainly Sunni and represent only a small percentage of the problem. ... [I]n Anbar province, Sunni tribal leaders rose up against the pro-al-Qaeda Sunni elements well before the surge began. Drifting along the current path actually enhances the al-Qaeda narrative of America as an occupier of Muslim nations.

Similarly, the presence of a large U.S. combat force contributes to regional instability. Since the surge began, the number of internally displaced Iraqis has more than doubled. The U.N. ... has said that more than 2 million Iraqis have left the country, and tens of thousands flee every day, often to squalid camps in Syria and Jordan.

As long as U.S. forces remain in Iraq in significant numbers, regional powers feel free to meddle, knowing that America must bear the consequences. If we clearly state our intent to leave, these states will have incentive to intervene constructively; it would endanger their own security if Iraq were to become a failed state or a launching pad for international terrorism. Even Shiite-dominated Iran, which has become the region's largest power as a result of the war, would not want an Iraqi haven for Sunni-controlled al-Qaeda.

There is one sure way to stop this drift. The United States must set a firm withdrawal date. It is the only way Iraqis and regional leaders will make the compromises necessary to stabilize Iraq and the entire Middle East. This withdrawal can be completed safely in 12 to 18 months and should be started immediately.

President Bush seems content to let Iraq drift until he leaves office, but America can ill afford this policy...

    Posted by on Thursday, November 15, 2007 at 12:33 AM in Iraq and Afghanistan, Terrorism | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (30)

          

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