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Monday, November 21, 2005

Paul Krugman: Time to Leave

Krugman delves into politics this week and concludes that Representative John Murtha is right:

Time to Leave, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: ...Representative John Murtha's speech calling for a quick departure from Iraq was full of passion, but it was also serious and specific in a way rarely seen on the other side of the debate. President Bush and his apologists speak in vague generalities about staying the course... But Mr. Murtha spoke of mounting casualties and lagging recruiting, the rising frequency of insurgent attacks, stagnant oil production and lack of clean water. Mr. Murtha - a much-decorated veteran who cares deeply about America's fighting men and women - argued that our presence in Iraq is making things worse, not better. Meanwhile, the war is destroying the military he loves. ... I'd add that the war is also destroying America's moral authority. When Mr. Bush speaks of human rights, the world thinks of Abu Ghraib. ... When administration officials talk of spreading freedom, the world thinks about ... much of Iraq ... ruled by theocrats and their militias. Some administration officials accused Mr. Murtha of undermining the troops and giving comfort to the enemy. But that sort of thing no longer works, now that the administration has lost the public's trust.

Instead, defenders of our current policy have had to make a substantive argument: we can't leave Iraq now, because a civil war will break out... But the real question is ... When, exactly, would be a good time to leave Iraq? ...[W]e're not going to stay in Iraq until we achieve victory, ... At most, we'll stay until the American military can take no more. Mr. Bush never asked the nation for the sacrifices - higher taxes, a bigger military and, possibly, a revived draft - that might have made a long-term commitment ... possible. Instead, the war has been fought on borrowed money and borrowed time. And time is running out. With some military units on their third tour of duty..., the superb volunteer army that Mr. Bush inherited is in increasing danger of ... collapse in quality and morale similar to the collapse of the officer corps in the early 1970's. So the question isn't whether things will be ugly after American forces leave Iraq. They probably will. The question... is whether it makes sense to keep the war going for another year or two, which is all the time we realistically have. ... And there's a good case to be made that our departure will actually improve matters. As Mr. Murtha pointed out..., the insurgency derives much of its support from the perception that it's resisting a foreign occupier. Once we're gone, the odds are that Iraqis, who don't have a tradition of religious extremism, will turn on fanatical foreigners like Zarqawi.

The only way to justify staying in Iraq is to make the case that stretching the U.S. army to its breaking point will buy time for something good to happen. I don't think you can make that case convincingly. So Mr. Murtha is right: it's time to leave.

Previous (11/18) column: Paul Krugman: A Private Obsession
Next (11/25) column: Paul Krugman: Bad for the Country

    Posted by on Monday, November 21, 2005 at 12:11 AM in Iraq and Afghanistan, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (30)

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