Iraq: Exit Strategy
Since John Murtha set off a firestorm with his blunt diagnosis of the Iraqi quagmire, more and more conservative hawks have “come out.” Most senior Pentagon officials are thinking about an exit strategy rather than how to win the Iraqi war.
As Robert Dreyfuss says in this Rolling Stone article, George Bush is just about the only person in Washington these days who doesn't know that the United States has lost the war in Iraq. Top U.S. generals in Iraq are saying there’s no longer a military solution; our presence in Iraq is detrimental.
Because of our continued presence there, ethnic rivalries in Iraq are stronger than ever, and Iraq’s civil war threatens to spill over into Iran, Turkey and the entire Arab world. The groups in Iraq who hate each other all agree on one thing: they don’t want foreign troops occupying their country.
Max Cleland, former Democratic Senator from Georgia, said “the key word in 'exit strategy' is not ‘exit’ but 'strategy.’ ” Cleland is a Vietnam veteran who lost both legs and an arm in combat. He was slandered out of office by America’s most infamous chickenhawk, Saxby Chambliss. Chambliss ran a series of TV ads where Max Cleland’s picture would segue into a picture of Osama bin Laden. Too many stupid voters fell for it, and Cleland was out.
Cleland also said “we need an exit strategy that we choose – or it will certainly be chosen for us. I've seen this movie before. I know how it ends.”
The main argument for staying in Iraq is that the region is so volatile and unpredictable, it needs America’s presence to serve as a steadying hand. Bush 43 has said “this enemy considers every retreat of the civilized world as an invitation to greater violence. In Iraq, there is no peace without victory.”
But more and more hardliners are thinking just the opposite: that America’s presence in Iraq is increasing the hatred and violence. General William Odom, National Security Director under President Reagan and currently affiliated with the rightwing Hudson Institute, says the longer we remain in Iraq, the more of a haven it becomes for Islamic terrorists. Our continued presence is also giving Iran more and more influence in the region.
America’s presence in Iraq is the single largest recruiting tool for Islamic terrorists. This recruiting pitch would start to evaporate after U.S. troops have pulled out.
The most popular argument against setting a timetable for withdrawal is that the insurgents could just keep a low profile until after we’ve pulled out, and then let ‘er rip. But other people are taking the opposite view: setting a timetable would force rival groups to settle their differences themselves without relying on U.S. troops. Wayne White, a former senior intelligence official on Iraq said “For better or worse, the United States has to step back and let Iraqis do it themselves.”
Another thing we need to do is (warning to conservatives: an offensive swear word will follow) – negotiate. No, not with the terrorists, but with the least radical of the groups, who probably represent most of the population. Wayne White also said “there is a whole rainbow of armed groups, including organizations that are tired of fighting and want to make a deal.”
Retired Gen. Joseph Hoar, chief of the U.S. Central Command for Bush 41, said “the reality is, you've got to talk. But this administration is so fucking stupid. They've pissed in the soup.” Hoar thinks Jordan’s King Abdullah would be a good negotiator among the United States, the interim Iraqi government and the resistance.
The Russian government has been pushing for over a year to have this type of conference. A spokesman for the Russian mission to the United Nations said “we have favored the idea of bringing in the Iraqi opposition – the patriotic, nationalist opposition. We are not talking about the jihadists, but the legitimate nationalist forces.”
The United Nations, Europe and Russia should all be involved in brokering a settlement. Max Cleland said “you need the international community to cover your rear end as you get out.”
Retired General Wesley Clark blasted the Bush administration for seeking only a military solution. He said “why are you putting all this on the military? You and your neocons, you and Dick Cheney, you got us into this. You've got to think about diplomacy.”
Clark says Syria and every other neighboring country needs to be involved in settling the conflict. He said “it’s in the interest of all these countries to want us to leave. They don't want a big conflict in the region.”
The American ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War said “the two countries we most need the help of are Syria and Iran. But instead of trying to involve them, we’re upping the ante by confronting them.”
So, is it possible that we might set a timetable for withdrawal, start negotiating and get out of this endless “stay the course” loop? Maybe the top military commanders can persuade Rumsfeld to talk sense to Bush. Karl Rove, seeing how the Iraqi quagmire is dragging down the administration, might persuade Bush of the importance of ending the war. We can hope.
cross-posted at Bring It On!