Following the March 2003 invasion of Iraq by a US-led coalition of forces, the regime of Saddam Hussein rapidly collapsed and coalition forces took control of the country. Despite the rapid and relatively bloodless victory, chaos, looting, crime, an anti-occupation insurgency, sectarian violence, and terrorism emerged in Iraq in subsequent years. Violence in Iraq continued even after the Coalition Provisional Authority handed over sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government in June 2004, and after elections and a constitutional referendum were held in 2005. Calls for withdrawing immediately from Iraq emerged as early as the end of 2003. In February 2006, these calls became particularly acute as the bombing of a Shi’ia mosque in Samarra plunged the country into what some have called civil war. Partly in response to this sectarian violence, the United States initiated a troop “surge” in January 2007, which appears to have reduced violence and increased stability. This has provided supporters of the war with some evidence in support of the continuation of the war. But, with 2008 marking the fifth year of the war and over 4,000 coalition troops dead, and with no clear end to the war in sight, calls for a staged withdrawal from Iraq continue to be voiced.
The debate over withdrawing troops from Iraq can be framed in general terms. Those that advocate for an “early” withdrawal desire a withdrawal before the “conditions” allow for it or before “success” is achieved (they typically object to the premise that “success” is possible). Democrats that call for a “responsible withdrawal” can be said to fall within this camp; the objective being to withdrawal before the “conditions” on-the-ground are met (under the assumption that they cannot be bet), but doing so “responsibly” so as to minimize any damages resulting from such a withdrawal. A timetable withdrawal could also be seen to fall within the pro case in this article, as it does not necessarily correlate to the achievement of desired on-the-ground “successes” and “conditions”. The con case calls for the continuation of the war until on-the-ground “conditions” are met and “success” achieved. The below debate is, therefore, a reflection of the general principles and arguments being leveled in this debate. Should the war be ended before the desired “conditions” are met or should it be maintained until they are “successfully” achieved? While this article documents this umbrella debate, it is important to recognize that there are many more specific debates on specific proposals that the below arguments do not address.
To answer the primary question in this debate, additional questions need to be posed. Is the Iraq War illegal under international law? Did it violate the principle that wars can only be conducted in self-defense in the UN charter? Did the UN actually not provide authorization for the war? Was the UN’s inspections resolutions and Iraq’s failed compliance insufficient grounds for a war? If so, does that mean that the US must withdraw immediately? Even if the war is not illegal, do the false premises of the war (that Iraq had WMD) mean that there is no longer a sufficient justification for the war’s continuation? Or, having “achieved” the central justifications for the war – ending Saddam Hussein’s regime and ensuring that Iraq has no WMD – can and should the US leave? Is the current war different than it was initially envisioned and might such “mission creep” justify withdrawing sooner than later? Is it necessary for the current course of the war to receive the legitimacy of US Congressional re-authorization and possibly a supportive UN resolution as well? If these can’t be obtained, is the US executive office bound to withdraw immediately? Or, has the US Congress continually authorized the war through funding approvals? And, can UN resolutions be replaced by treaties negotiated directly between the United States government and the Iraqi government?
Would withdrawing from Iraq be a responsible use of coalition soldiers or is staying the course an important way to honor the sacrifices of both dead and living soldiers? What has the cost been on US and coalition militaries? Is withdrawing essential to maintaining the integrity and future of the US military? What are the broader costs of the war? Has it been a terrible economic burden on the United States? Has it severely damaged domestic programs in the United States? Has it been a major cause of economic difficulties in the states? Would an early withdrawal stimulate the US and global economies?
Finally, what does the American public want? What do Congressmen want as representatives of American will? Must their will be followed? What do the Iraqis want? While Americans may be opposed to the war, does that mean they would support an early withdrawal? What does their government want as the representatives of their peoples? Does their desire for the United States to establish a timetable for withdrawing have to be followed? What do publics around the world want? Does their will have to be followed? Would UN opposition to the war create the necessity that coalition forces withdraw immediately or on a timetable?
Certainly, this is one of the most important and complicated debates so far in the 21st century. It would appear that the Bush administration plans to stay the course through the end of its presidency in January 20th, 2009. This debate, therefore, appears most relevant to the next president of the United States, who will have to make a choice between these diverging courses of action.
– “When pressed on whether he viewed the invasion of Iraq as illegal, he said: ‘Yes, if you wish. I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN charter from our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal.'” There are two basic justifications for this claim. First, the UN charter only allows for self-defensive wars in cases where the threat is imminent. The threat was not imminent in Iraq’s case. Second, exceptions to self-defensive wars require UN approval through Security Council resolutions. No explicit authorization was provided by the UN to the US and coalition forces to wage war. UN resolutions only mentioned “serious consequences” in the event of Iraqi non-compliance with inspectors. “Serious consequences” is certainly not the terminology used by the UN to authorize war; “all necessary means” are the keywords that authorize war, and they were not provided in any UN resolution. Thus, the war was illegal and coalition forces have no legal basis for continued operations in Iraq.- “When pressed on whether he viewed the invasion of Iraq as illegal, he said: ‘Yes, if you wish. I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN charter from our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal.'” There are two basic justifications for this claim. First, the UN charter only allows for self-defensive wars in cases where the threat is imminent. The threat was not imminent in Iraq’s case. Second, exceptions to self-defensive wars require UN approval through Security Council resolutions. No explicit authorization was provided by the UN to the US and coalition forces to wage war. UN resolutions only mentioned “serious consequences” in the event of Iraqi non-compliance with inspectors. “Serious consequences” is certainly not the terminology used by the UN to authorize war; “all necessary means” are the keywords that authorize war, and they were not provided in any UN resolution. Thus, the war was illegal and coalition forces have no legal basis for continued operations in Iraq.
The US actively attempted to pass a UN SC resolution authorizing the invasion of Iraq. When it discovered that it could not secure enough votes, it withdrew its resolution from the floor. It proceeded with the invasion despite not receiving this authorization, and justified the invasion on the grounds of previous resolutions. But, of course, it knew that this was far less legitimate under international law than receiving an authorization that was relevant to the circumstances. That the Bush administration proceeded despite not receiving a fresh authorization speaks to its disregard for international law and legitimacy.
America and its allies should never have invaded Iraq in the first place. Claims that Saddam Hussein was linked to Al-Qaeda, and that he possessed weapons of mass destruction have both turned out to be incorrect, at best, and lies at worse. The war was an illegal act of aggression, without United Nations sanction, and the occupation is therefore also illegal. For this reason alone the coalition should remove its forces from Iraq as soon as possible.
The UN has authorized the continued presence of coalition forces in Iraq. But, if it lets its current authorization expire on January 1, 2009 – as it is scheduled to – than it will have fully lost authorization and international legal legitimacy in Iraq, and should leave.
The Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) in 2002 was for the removal of Saddam Hussein from office and the elimination of the supposed WMD threat. Both objectives have been “accomplished”, which means that the war no longer enjoys congressional authorization and approval. Without such authorization, the war, in its current form, lacks the added legitimacy provided by Congressional consultation and approval. While this alone may not be enough to end the war, the lack of Congressional approval is a major strike against it.
The Bush administration has cited the “war on terror” legislation passed by the United States Congress weeks after the September 11th attacks as having warranted war in Iraq. But this legislation cannot be viewed as a blank check. While it offered the executive branch the authority to use “all necessary means” to protect the United States from terrorism, this cannot be interpreted to have included an authorization to invade Iraq, which posed no clear terrorism threat.
– “There are three requirements if Security Council members the United States, Britain and Spain are to lead an international coalition to enforce the council’s resolutions on Iraq.
First, there must be a clear and unequivocal duty on Iraq to comply with council resolutions. Second, there must be a clear and unequivocal breach of that duty. Third, there must be a legitimate and continuing authority for enforcing those actions. All are present.”
Following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the UN-mandated, US-led expulsion of Iraqi troops from Kuwait, the UN passed resolution 687, which called for Iraq to disarm its WMD stockpiles, or face enforcement by “all necessary means”. At the time of the decision to go to war in 2002, Iraq was believed to have not disarmed its WMD stockpiles. The 2003 invasion, therefore, could be justified on the basis of Iraq’s non-compliance with resolution 687 and that resolution’s mandate for enforcement via “all necessary means”.
Many intelligence reports and expert opinions internationally corroborated the analysis that Iraq had WMD prior to the 2003 invasion. Leaders and governments cannot be held legally culpable for having trusted for this bad intelligence and analysis. This means that the invasion of Iraq was not really illegal nor that withdrawing from Iraq should be encouraged on such a basis.
The UN repeatedly noted Iraq’s non-compliance with its disarmament obligations through the 90s, and authorized the use of force on a number of occasions. Prior to the 2003 invasion, UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix concluded that Iraq continued to shirk compliance, and that it continued to have stores of WMD. The invasion could be justified on these grounds; continued non-compliance and past authorizations for the use of force.
While there may be some questions regarding the legal justifications for the invasion of Iraq, there is no question that the UN has provided resolutions authorizing the post-invasion presence of coalition forces in Iraq. On January 1, 2009, the last UN resolution providing this authorization will expire. The United State will likely seek an additional resolution to extend into 2009 and beyond. The point here is that a continuum of UN resolutions have provided continual legitimacy to the presence of coalition forces in Iraq. They also override any argument that the Iraq War is illegal based on the lack of a UN resolution; subsequent UN authorization has been provided. There is, therefore, no justification for withdrawing on the basis of a lack of UN resolutions.
Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime did pose a threat to regional stability and to its own people. Whether he actually had weapons of mass destruction is irrelevant – he acted to obstruct and deceive inspectors and so was a general menace to international law and security.
The evidence suggests that if sanctions had been lifted and no action taken, Saddam Hussein would have restarted Iraq’s WMD programs. His memoirs indicate, at least, that he had such a desire.
Saddam Hussein is out of power and no longer a shadowy hazard and menace to the region. It is no longer possible for Saddam Hussein to re-build Iraq’s WMD. Iraq now has the opportunity to grow into a democratic state, if it chooses. These are welcome developments, despite the costs of the war.
While the justifications can be debated until the cows come home, the reality in Iraq and the US presence there must be addressed at face value. Actions now must be based on considerations of the best interests of the United States, Iraq, the region, and the world at large. Any withdrawal that is based purely on the legal justifications going into the war would turn a blind eye to the present moral considerations, and would thus be amoral and possibly immoral.
The democratic potential of Iraq is non-existent. It is a false hope. It is wrong, therefore, to maintain this hope as a justification for remaining in Iraq.
The domino theory depends on the premise that, if the US withdraws, Iraq will turn into an Islamist country, which will then cause other countries to become increasingly Islamist. But, it is a highly questionable notion that Iraq would turn into an Islamist country after a US withdrawal. This depends on Iraq first turning into a failed state and its democratic government crumbling, which is questionable, and then Islamism becoming the dominant political force in the country such that it would influence other countries to adopt Islamism, which are also both highly questionable premises.
To argue that the success of democracy in the Middle East and in the Muslim world depends on the results of the Iraq War, is to argue that democracy does not have its own inherent appeal. Democracy is, rather, the inherently best form of governance in the world. We must trust, therefore, that the Middle East and Muslims will come to adopt it for this reason, and irrespective of what happens in Iraq.
Iraq has great potential to become a bastion of democracy and secularism in the Middle East. Withdrawing early jeopardizes this historic opportunity. It would also, therefore, undermine the spread of democracy in the Middle East generally.
“Those who advocate a quick withdrawal without offering a realistic solution to the crises seem to over look the consequences of the future U.S. national interest and the possibilities of an all-out regional war with a domino affect that will eventually draw us back into a larger war with no credibility.
Finally, if we fail in Iraq, it will be the biggest blow to the prospect of democracy in the Middle East with major political consequences in the future of our foreign policy in that region. Muslim fanatics and al-Qaeda groups will claim victory and will use our failure to increase their presence in the region.”</p.
Some argue that withdrawing from Iraq would cause the United States to be seen as feckless. It is the reverse. The US is seen as feckless because it is hamstrung in Iraq. In fact, the US is actually feckless because it is tied down and exhausting itself in Iraq. The reality of fecklessness that results from the US being in Iraq is more damaging to US leverage than the impression of fecklessness, which may or may not result from withdrawing from Iraq. Withdrawing from Iraq would fix the bigger problem – the reality of fecklessness – and cut the losses of US leverage internationally.
“Calls to maintain the status quo echo the same rationale used to keep us in Vietnam. To those who contend that we would weaken our credibility if we withdraw, we believe that the nation’s standing would greatly improve if we demonstrate the judgment to terminate an unwise course.
Our continuing presence in Iraq feeds the insurgency and gives the insurgents a certain legitimacy in the eyes of much of the world. We know from our own history that armies of occupation are seldom welcome.”
Not only has Iraq drained US resources and military capacity, but it has also dominated its diplomatic and policy attention. It is difficult for the United States to launch any major Middle East policy initiatives, for instance in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, while it is focusing so squarely on the War in Iraq.
The vast majority of the world publics and leaders desire that the United States leave Iraq. If the United States made the choice to leave, the world and its leaders would mostly support its decision (it’s what they are calling for!). The US could be seen as working within the wishes of the global community, and this could do nothing but increase the image of the United States in the world, as opposed to undermining US credibility and image.
Outrage at foreign occupation has been multiplied by brutal American tactics, from the use of degrading torture at Abu Ghraib to the recent discovery that phosphorus weapons were used against civilians in Fallujah. Instances American soldiers at roadblocks shooting men, women and children has also undermined the image of the United States. Indeed, counter-insurgency occupations are ugly and gruesome incidence, which will inevitably undermine the image of the US, cannot be avoided.
Saddam has been removed from office and executed, WMD has not been found, and Iraq is no longer a threat to the region. This was the main thrust of the US mission going into the war. Having accomplished these objectives and having ensured that Iraq in fact does not have WMD, the US can withdrawal on the basis that it has accomplished its limited mission in Iraq.
This is a classic phenomena with great powers, in which they engage in unnecessary wars at far greater cost than was ever initially imagined, leading to the weakening of the state and a fall from grace. This has happened many times in history, it can certainly happen again, with Iraq as the catalyst for the fall of the United States.
The policy of “containment” in the Cold War was a success. The idea was to contain the influence of communism while promoting the greater idea of democracy. This succeeded. In the Middle East, a policy of “containing” Islamic fundamentalism should be implemented, while simultaneously promoting the greater idea of democracy and secularism. This will succeed too.
Invading Iraq was – at least with nods and winks – secure US and coalition oil interests in a country with the second to third largest oil reserves in the world. It, however, has not done so, and has resulted in the greatest oil-price hikes in decades. For sure this justification for invading was faulty. It may also be true that withdrawing would help re-stabilizing global oil prices. This is based, in large part, on combination of cases that withdrawing from Iraq will not cause greater chaos and that it may actually improve the situation (below).
A coalition withdrawal from Iraq would be seen as a sign of weakness. Smelling blood, terrorists would fight harder. Enemies of the Coalition would take the threat of US forces less seriously. Generally, the United States would be seen as weaker and treated so geopolitically.
– “A politically driven pullout would be a military disaster[…]A political pullout would send a dangerous signal of weakness and fecklessness to both our allies and enemies”.
– “The fact is, we now have a great opportunity, not only to bring stability and freedom to Iraq, but to make Iraq a pillar of our future strategy for the entire region of the greater Middle East.” If Iraq is turned into a functioning democracy, and economically viable state, and an ally of Western democracies, it would become a primary conduit for all US and Western relations in the Middle East. It could become a bastion of international trade and individual property rights, and would act as a beacon of Western democratic principles in the Middle East. In a Middle East without these principles, a succesful Iraq that would serve these purposes would be priceless. While hopes should be tempered by reality in this regard, it is important to also the real importance that such an outcome would have to the future of the Middle and the world generally.
– “Some would withdraw regardless of the consequences. Others say that we can withdraw now and then return if trouble starts again. What they are really proposing, if they mean what they say, is a policy of withdraw and re-invade. I can hardly imagine a more imprudent and dangerous course.”
If chaos ensues in Iraq, the risk is not simply that a civil war, genocide, and perhaps a regional conflict ensue. The added risk is that the main source of the world’s oil becomes embroiled in this conflict, and that global oil prices spike significantly, shocking the global economy and causing a global recession.
The US and its allies, having invested so much into Iraq, should reap the benefits of Iraq’s oil reserves. Benefiting from these oil reserves, with contracts and preferred relations with Iraqi suppliers, is important to US and coalition interests.
Getting out too soon will simply reinforce the views of those who thought the invasion wrong in the first place. On the other hand, staying in Iraq to secure peace, democracy and human rights will set a positive example to other countries and show that the values for which the war was publicly fought were genuine; to spread democracy with conviction and determination.
Many argue that if coalition forces withdraw prematurely from Iraq that Iraq will fall subject to Islamism and tyranny and that, in a domino effect, so too will other Middle Eastern countries fall. This was predicted by proponents of the Vietnam War; that communism would infiltrate Vietnam if the US withdrew and subsequently infiltrate the entire region in a domino-like way. Yet, this did not happen after the US withdrawal from Vietnam. None of the region’s nations subsequently became communist (except for Cambodia), and most of them enjoy democratic systems today with booming economies. With this as an example, it would appear false to claim that a US withdrawal from Iraq would result in a domino-like effect in the Middle East. Rather, it is likely that these countries’ political systems will remain largely insulated from any political occurrences in Iraq.
While hundreds of thousands, and even millions, of people died in Vietnam and Cambodia after the US withdrew, hundreds of thousands and even millions died while the US was there too. The same could be expected in Iraq. Whether we stay or go, hundreds or thousands of people are probably going to die. So, as difficult as it may be, we should go.
Opponents of withdrawing from Vietnam in the late 60s and early 70s almost all argued that it would damage US credibility in the international arena. And yet, this is not what happened after the withdrawal. Instead, the United States continued to rise in power and influence around the world, with an economy and military that was no longer encumbered by the Vietnam war. It geopolitical strength increased, and thus so too did its geopolitical credibility and leverage increase. These lessons should be applied to Iraq.
US analysts feared withdrawing from Vietnam on the basis that it would undermine the future of US policies in South East Asia. Nevertheless, withdrawing did not lead to the failure of US policies in South East Asia, and some even believe it was necessary to its great successes. Similarly, many analysts fear that withdrawing from Iraq will lead to chaos in the Middle East. Yet, following the history of withdrawing from Vietnam, withdrawing would not appear to jeopardize US Middle East policies, and it may actually help them.
– “Ironically, many of the same liberals who demand an immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq are the same ones who believe they are great protectors of human rights and also suffer from the dream that America’s withdrawal from Vietnam was justified and made Southeast Asia a better place.
The truth is: America’s departure from Vietnam meant death, torture and imprisonment for millions of Vietnamese and Cambodians. Both contries became communist — which is hardly a good thing.
In my view, America’s withdrawal from Vietnam was the biggest tragedy of American foreign policy during the last century. America’s withdrawal from Vietnam is a gigantic black mark on America’s history.”
At every stage of the War in Iraq, from 2003 through 2008, “changes of strategy” have been held out as the kernel of hope toward achieving “success” “just around the corner”. Each time, however, “changing” the strategy has failed to bring coalition forces noticeably closer to “success” in Iraq. Things have, rather, steadily worsened. New claims that “strategic changes” will, “this time”, make the difference no longer have any credibility, and need to be shut out on this basis. The main problem is that no strategic changes can alter the fundamentals of the conflict (below).
The fundamentals of the Iraq conflict cannot be resolved by strategic adjustments. These fundamentals are: a counter-insurgency war, anti-American Iraqis that support insurgents, sectarian hatreds, an endless flood of Jihadi terrorists into Iraq, the difficulties of urban warfare, the lack of sufficient numbers of US troops, and a host of other factors. No strategic changes can affect these fundamental problems. We should not be fooled, therefore, by claims of “strategic changes” holding the key to success “this time”. And, with no prospect for “strategic modifications” making success possible, the United States and coalition forces should leave.
While failure in Iraq is unlikely to arise, it is also unlikely that the US will “win” or that any measure of “success” will ever arise. This is encapsulated by Gen. David Petraeus’s observation that “there is no light at the end of the tunnel that we’re seeing.” This was precisely the situation that arose in Vietnam, in which a war was prolonged that would see neither victory nor defeat. It simply went on and on with no real purpose until the United States was tired and exhausted. The US must realize that it has entered a no-win situation that will simply drain it of its resources and for no clear or achievable goals, and that withdrawing sooner than later is simply the lesser of two evils.
While military interventions have succeeded, almost never have they succeeded where they were “offensive”. The reason is that such wars deeply offend the nationalistic pride of native population and create the passions for an endless resistance effort.
Success will not come quickly or easily. However, it is possible. It is being made possible by the brave men and women in our armed forces. Leaving will only hinder the success that we have made with the “surge”.
The troop surge is certainly an encouraging sign. But, its success must also be placed in the context of a broader adjustment in strategy that complimented the increase in troops. This has included more “forward bases” in which US troops are placed among Iraqis and Iraqi Security Forces, increasing interaction, trust, and training. It has also included the realization that much of Iraq’s insurgents fight for economic reasons. Paying Iraqis to join Iraqi Security forces, therefore, is something that has been initiated to a much greater extent in Iraq in 2007 and 2008, with signs of success. These kinds of strategic adjustments and fine-tunings are taking place constantly, and make “success” a real possibility.
The United States has invested trillions of dollars into the Iraq War. It is important to achieve a return on that investment, instead of throwing it all away by withdrawing.
Am example of this was Neville Chamberline in WW2. He came back from Berlin, after talking to Hitler, and said he had secured “Peace of are time.” The next few days go by and Hitler invades the rest of Czechloslovakia. Then he goes and invades Poland, and WW2 happened. You cannot ignore a problem and hope it will go away! The United States needs to stay focused on the problem in Iraq (Islamic Fundamentalism), as it is central to both its Middle East strategy and the war on terror. It needs to confront the problem now, succeed now, and not delay success into the future where it will come at a greater cost.
A Pew Research Centre March 2008 poll found that 53 percent of Americans believed “the US will ultimately succeed in achieving its goals”, up from 42 per cent six months prior to the poll.
Many believe thatforeign troops are doing more harm than good in Iraq. If this is the case, then a withdrawal of troops would actually improve the security situation for individual Iraqis. As such, it would better meet any moral obligation to the Iraqi people than keeping troops there.
Iraq cannot be taken in a moral vacuum. The US does not simply have an obligation to Iraqis. It has an obligation to international security as well. The War in Iraq has damaged the United States’ ability to uphold its obligations to maintaining international security. Not only has it been a drain on resources and a distraction from US international obligations, but it may even actually damage international security, subsequently damaging the US obligation to upholding international security. Any obligation to the Iraqis cannot be detached from these other obligations. By better enabling the US to live up to its global responsibilities, withdrawing would uphold the principle of “the greater good for the greater number”.
The United States has obligations to its own citizens as well as to Iraqis. It is clear that keeping US troops in Iraq undermines the United States’ ability to uphold many of its domestic interests and obligations, particularly due to the massive financial strain of the war. The economic difficulties of the United States toward the end of the Bush administration are a testament to how the Iraq War has damaged US domestic interests. This needs to be weighed against considerations of an obligation to Iraqis.
“For all General Petraeus’s spin, Iraq is still a violent mess. That is why America should not leave yet[…]If the case for staying depended on extrapolating from the modest gains the general claims for his surge, it would be a weak one. The strong case is that if America leaves, things will get even worse. This can only be a guess, but it is more plausible than the alternative guess that America’s going will nudge Iraq in the right direction. In the past two years, violence has tended to decline where American troops are present and to rise in the places they leave. There is no doubt that some Shia militias want to rid Baghdad of its Sunnis and that American troops are for now the only thing stopping them.
[…]Not a must, just an oughtIf America could choose again, it would not step into a civil war in Mesopotamia. But there are worse reasons than preventing a bloodbath for a superpower to put its soldiers at risk. Having invaded Iraq in its own interest—to remove mass-killing weapons that turned out not to exist—America owes something to Iraq’s people, a slim majority of whom want it to stay. It is hard to know how Iraq can be mended. At some point it may become clear the country has sunk so low it is simply beyond saving. But it is not possible to be sure of that yet.”
This is a common argument against the continued presence of coalition forces in Iraq. It is particularly relevant in regards to the anti-occupation insurgency in Iraq, which is focused, by definition, on fighting coalition forces and expelling them from Iraq. If US forces withdraw, most insurgents will stop fighting, and violence in the country will be substantially reduced as a result.
An insurgency exists in Iraq, in large part, to expel “occupying” US forces. This cause is supported by roughly half the Iraqi population. If the US withdrew from Iraq, the insurgency would have no cause and basis for existing nor for perpetrating its violent acts. The Iraqi population would withdraw support for any continued violence waged on their behalf, and the insurgency would effectively fade away.
“Our continuing presence in Iraq feeds the insurgency and gives the insurgents a certain legitimacy in the eyes of much of the world. We know from our own history that armies of occupation are seldom welcome.”
The US presence has created a regional reaction against the “invaders” and “crusaders”. This has resulted in a flood of foreign fighters to Iraq. If the US withdrew from the country, far fewer, if any, foreign fighters would enter the country, which would help reduce violence and stabilize the country.
Shiites and Kurds, in addition to loyal Iraq soldiers, are more powerful in number and in arms than Sunni insurgents. This has much to do with the fact that the USA has been arming Shiite and Kurd militias to combat Sunni insurgents. This Shiite and Kurd militias and troops would oppose and prevent Sunni insurgents from seizing control of Baghdad.
If the insurgency saw the US leave Iraq, they would feel that they had achieved a success. They would feel emboldened to continue the fight with greater energy against Iraqi troops and the Iraqi government, whom would carry the mantle of “collaborators” and democratic, anti-Islamist belief.
Some argue that a US withdrawal would eliminate the cause celebre of the insurgency. Yet, insurgents are fighting the Iraqi government as much as they are fighting foreign troops in the country. If foreign troops withdraw, insurgents will simply focus their fight against the Iraqi government, with the end-goal of unseating the government and seizing power.
Iraqi troops need the support and training of US troops. If the US leaves, this support will be withdrawn, and will be severely demoralizing for Iraqi troops, subjecting them to a much harder and more dangerous fight. This may cause them to hold back or possibly to quite all together.
If a US exit subjects Iraqi troops to greater risk, it is likely that many of them will simply quite or join with the insurgency.
Most Iraqis oppose the US occupation of Iraq, some to the extent that they are willing to support the cause of the insurgency. And, as long as Al Qaeda frames its mission in Iraq as part of this anti-occupation effort, they are largely welcome. But, if foreign troops leave, Al Qaeda will not longer have a cause to justify its presence, and they will lose the support they enjoy from Iraqis.
The proportion of the fighters in Iraq that are driven by a Jihadist/terrorists cause is very small. Most are fighting to expel the United States, to fight other religious sects, or simply to earn money. Therefore, while a withdrawal might embolden Jihadists, they are so insignificant in Iraq that the effect would be negligible on Iraq and US and coalition security interests.
‘Supporters of the war predict six major disasters if US forces withdraw:
Al Qaeda will take over the country. This risk is now non existent. Al Qaeda’s support is strongest among Sunnis, whom the Shia outnumber by three to one. The Shia control the military, the police, and numerous militias. The United States has ramped up its operations in Baghdad in part to stop the Shia from cleansing the Sunnis from Baghdad. There will be no caliphate in Baghdad, whether Americans stay or leave.
Iraq will become a new Afghanistan, to Al Qaeda’s benefit. The most extreme among the Sunni insurgents may indeed be committed to international jihad, and they may continue to work clandestinely out of Iraq, as they do today. But these jihadis will not be comfortable. Iraqi Shi’ites despise them, and even many Sunnis oppose them. US intelligence will indeed have to keep an eye on them, and special operations forces may occasionally need to sneak back into Iraq to strike at them. These are capabilities the United States has spent billions building up since Sept. 11.”
Al Qaeda does not have a prominent presence in Iraq among the various armed factions. This means that it is powerless to gain power.
The majority of Iraqi Sunnis, while they support anti-occupation insurgents, do not support Al Qaeda’s mission of a continuing Jihad against the West. Al Qaeda will be unwelcome by Sunnis after a coalition withdrawal.
AQI emerged in Iraq as a fairly independent organization from Al Qaeda. They adopted the name Al Qaeda in Iraq because they are terrorists and because they desired to achieve a kind of “brand recognition”. But, because they are not coordinated directly with Al Qaeda at large, it would be unfair to say that any strength they accumulate from a US withdrawal from Iraq would correlate to strength accumulated by Al Qaeda at large.
If US troops leave, there will no longer be a foreign target for terrorists in Iraq and from the region. Certainly, they may try to attack the United State and other western countries through various means, but his would be more difficult than fighting US forces in Iraq. Withdrawing from Iraq would deprive terrorists of as many opportunities to strike as they currently enjoy.
The US will, after leaving, still be able to support Iraqi security forces in their fight against Al Qaeda. This will make Al Qaeda’s success in Iraq very difficult, particularly with the US gone and with no basis for any continued presence of Al Qaeda there.
Foreign troops in Iraq anger Muslims and Muslim terrorists globally. The reason is a combination of the faulty premises of the invasion and of convictions that it is an affront to Islam for foreign troops to be stationed in Muslim territory. The anger that this causes feeds into anti-Americanism and anti-Western beliefs, which help fuel jihadist and terrorist causes.
Withdrawal would make it easier for an over-stretched America to focus on a broader anti-terrorism strategy, aimed at building democracies and promoting human rights in the Middle East and elsewhere. Getting all the CIA’s Arabic speakers back from Baghdad’s Green Zone would also allow restructured US intelligence agencies to concentrate on preventing future terrorist attacks.
The Madrid and London bombings, as well as attacks on coalition interests worldwide (e.g. Australians in Indonesia) show that the Iraq war has made us less safe. Until western forces are withdrawn from Iraq, the citizens of coalition countries will continue to be unnecessarily at great risk from terrorism.
Mending relations with the Arab and Muslim world, as well as the many other countries which opposed the war would make it easier to fight the war on terror.
Some proponents of the war argue that it is necessary to fight terrorists in Iraq so that they don’t come across the Atlantic to the United States. This is wrong on many levels. First, very few terrorists in Iraq have the resources to get to the United States to attack. Second, our Homeland Security apparatus is designed to prevent this from happening. Third, terrorists are already trying to enter the United States to wage war there, but are failing. Fourth, the presence of the United States can only inflame the desire of terrorists to come to the United States to wage war.
Critics of a withdrawal often argue that it would embolden terrorists. While this may be true, this completely ignores the fact that the war itself emboldened terrorists more than anything else. It continues to embolden them with a cause. While withdrawing may be a “success” for terrorists, and embolden them in this way, it will take away their cause of “expelling the crusader”, which is the foundation of their support across the Muslim world.
Withdrawing from Iraq would concede a major victory to terrorists around the world that would be used as evidence of the “success” of a global Jihadi movement and would be used to advance the continuation of the war on broader fronts and theaters around the world, particularly in inspiring recruits to join the fight. Instead of running, we have to confront and overcome the terrorists in Iraq, sending a message that we are determined, and are prepared to persevere in the face of hardship for a noble cause. This will demoralize terrorists, and cause them to retreat and give up.
Islamic fundamentalism is the biggest threat facing the United States, coalition countries, the West, and democracies around the world. It is nearly equivalent in stature to the threat communism posed in the Cold War. And it is the root cause of Jihadi terrorism. Iraq has become the central front in the fight between Islamic fundamentalism and Western democratic principles. If coalition forces withdraw and Iraq is lost, a major battle in the war against Islamic fundamentalism will be lost. This cannot be allowed to happen. This is the view of former Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who wrote on January 18, 2007, “The war in Iraq is part of another war that cuts across the Shiite-Sunni issue: the assault on the international order conducted by radical groups in both Islamic sects.”
“Many would perceive a sudden U.S. withdrawal as a major victory for Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda has made Iraq a crucial theater in its global terrorist campaign”
Multiple Al Qaeda operatives have expressed a broad strategic will within Al Qaeda to fight The great battle against the United States in Iraq. Both these statements, and the significant presence of Al Qaeda and other terrorists in Iraq add credence to the notion that Iraq has become the main theater of the war on terror. To withdrawal from this theater would be to concede defeat on the main battle field of the war on terror. Such a loss would be devastating to the broader efforts of this war.
“The consequences of leaving Iraq prematurely could be a radical Islamic regime funded with oil revenues, an unfettered platform for terrorist attacks, destabilizing the Middle East and threatening America itself. Know the enemy. Zarqawi has a long history of terrorist activities. He organized the assassination of Lawrence Foley, a U.S. Agency for International Development official, in Amman in 2002, he planned terrorist attacks in Germany a year later, and he plotted last year to attack Jordan’s intelligence service and prime minister’s office, as well as the U.S. and Israeli embassies there. Three al Qaeda operators crossed from Iraq into Jordan, smuggling seven Katyusha missiles in the underbelly of an aging Mercedes with a hidden second gas tank. Moreover, Jordanians discovered a warehouse of chemical substances and 20 tons of explosives. The 71 types of chemical substances included nerve gas and substances that cause third-degree burns and asphyxiation. Ultimately, the terrorists were diverted, but this is the kind of mayhem we can expect if al Qaeda is permitted to establish paramountcy in Iraq. This year, of course, it was Zarqawi who masterminded the suicide attacks on the three tourist hotels in Amman in which dozens died.”
The terrorists in Iraq are just waiting for the United States to leave. When they exit, they will launch a massive campaign against the Iraqi government, partly predicated on the notion that the Iraqi government is an illegitimate stooge of the United States and also on the notion that its democratic practices are contrary to the caliphate that they seek to establish.
If the US withdrew from Iraq, there will be far fewer regulations of the oil revenues coming out of Iraq’s oil industry. It will be far easier for Al Qaeda to tap into corrupt networks and control substantial oil-funding for its operations against the West.
By withdrawing before the job is done, the United States would give the impression that it is an unreliable friend and ally in the war on terror and on any front.
We were already targets. The attacks on New York and Washington of September 11th 2001 took place well before the start of the Iraq War, and other Al-Qaeda attacks and plots against coalition countries took place before 2003. Furthermore, more recent attacks in Indonesia and France have shown that even countries opposed to the Iraq war are not safe from Islamic terrorists.
Iraqi politicians over-rely on US security forces. This has caused their complacency. Setting a date for withdrawing from Iraq would force them to work harder, reconcile differences, more rapidly improve the Iraqi security forces, and secure the future of their country.
Many military and civilian leaders have stated that there is no military solution in Iraq; that a political solution is the only possible solution. If this is the case, and if the political situation is seen as intractable (as argued above), then there is no possible solution at all in Iraq, even if some military progress is being made.
The vast majority of Iraqis are opposed to the American occupation. They are, by extension, largely opposed to Iraq leaders whom support and are supported by the United States. This creates an inherent dilemma for the United States’ continued presence in Iraq. First, whichever Iraqi leaders the United States provides resources, security, and political support to will be rejected by the majority of Iraqis. Lt. Gen. William E. Odom wrote in 2006, “No Iraqi leader with enough power and legitimacy to control the country will be pro-American.” This means both that the United States will taint any Iraqi leader that it touches and that it has little future in Iraq as a political arbiter and diplomatic partner. This means that the United States’ troop presence in Iraq is both bad for the present political leadership in Iraq and that the United States has little long-term political future in Iraq. This adds credence to the notion that it should leave.
Sheikh Sabeeh al-Ani, chief of the al-Ani tribe, said in 2007 – “I think Iraq is full of sincere and capable people who will run the country successfully without US protection and support.”
Iraq has a new, elected government, and has successfully voted in a referendum on a new, relatively liberal constitution. Sunni factions are now engaging in political discussions and the new regime is gaining recognition from neighbouring states. At the same time the new Iraqi army and police are gaining in numbers and ability.
Sheikh Ismail al-Qargoly, head of the Qargol tribe, said in 2007 to Al Jazeera, “I will be honest with you; democracy will not work in Iraq. If and when the US military withdraws, Iraqis will realise that only a dictator with an iron fist can put down the fighting and bring security.” This can be taken to mean that any efforts in Iraq are hopeless and so should be ended.
“Moderates would be crushed, Shiite extremists backed by Iran would be in an all-out war with Sunni extremists led by Al-Qaida and remnants of the old Saddam regime.”
An early US withdrawal would force the Iraqi government to maintain its security. But, the Iraqi government is not capable of securing its country at this stage. Faced with a task that it cannot fulfill, the Iraqi government will lose legitimacy in the eyes of the people and disintegrate.
Although the constitution and formation of a legitimate government are major achievements, there is still much work to do. Sunni Arabs have to be convinced that the new settlement is in their interests and be drawn into government. This requires that they, and others, are convinced that the Iraqi government will stand the test of time, which requires the support of the US both politically and militarily.
As regional police forces gain confidence and experience, and as individual army battalions become trained, properly equipped and battle-ready, then a gradual withdrawal of coalition troops can take place over the course of the next few years.
International support for the Iraqi government is largely predicated on US involvement in the country as well as the legitimacy that the US presence lends. It is also based on the fact that the US presence better ensures the future of Iraq and the Iraqi government. Without a US troop presence, therefore, other countries will find it harder to invest in the future of Iraq and relations with its government.
– “Economic crisis in Iraq The state of the Iraqi economy gives Iraqis little incentive to work to preserve it. Unemployment is estimated at 60 percent,24 and most educated Iraqis, or those with money, have already fled. Foreign direct investment is under 1 percent. Most Iraqis have electricity for less than 3 hours per day. This economic paralysis is a direct impetus for the ongoing violence. Young, unemployed men end up joining militias that vie for control of neighborhood turf, rather than putting their energies toward rebuilding a shattered nation.”
“While its proven oil reserves of 112 billion barrels ranks Iraq second in the work behind Saudi Arabia, EIA estimates that up to 90-percent of the county remains unexplored due to years of wars and sanctions” . The current stagflation the U.S. is experiencing is rooted in the oil shortages and energy shortcomings – continued troop presence is paramount to obtaining and using these resources effectively and preventing U.S. stagflation.
“In retrospect we can see that it was precisely the early U.S. successes in Thailand that misled America into an unwinnable hot war [in Vietnam].” This point can be extended as a warning against attaching too much meaning to the “success” of the surge; it may serve only to protract the war without any actual prospects for success.
Many argue that the presence of US troops is largely exacerbating problems in Iraq, in particularly because the insurgency and terrorists are fighting US troop on an anti-occupation premise. If coalition forces leave, insurgents and terrorists will stop waging an anti-occupation war. This means that an entire component of the War in Iraq will end. While violence between Iraqis may persist on various levels, withdrawing the occupation-insurgency-terrorist front would markedly improve security.
These attacks are largely against ordinary Iraqis, including innocent shoppers and worshippers in mosques, as well as policemen, soldiers and potential recruits, and construction workers. This is why the civilian death toll is so large in Iraq. Such a death toll, while unleashed by the invasion of Iraq, is not a direct cause of the presence of US troops. It is, rather, a result of many internal tensions between Iraqis that the US troops can help mollify.
Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in a March 30th, 2008 Washington Post article, “The contrast between the Democratic argument for ending the war and the Republican argument for continuing is sharp and dramatic. The case for terminating the war is based on its prohibitive and tangible costs, while the case for ’staying the course’ draws heavily on shadowy fears of the unknown and relies on worst-case scenarios. President Bush’s and Sen. John McCain’s forecasts of regional catastrophe are quite reminiscent of the predictions of ‘falling dominoes’ that were used to justify continued U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Neither has provided any real evidence that ending the war would mean disaster, but their fear-mongering makes prolonging it easier.”
“The growing demand by the American people for us to leave Iraq prompts the naysayers to predict disaster in the Middle East if we do. Of course, these merchants of fear are the same ones who predicted that invading and occupying Iraq would be a slam dunk operation; that we would be welcomed as liberators, and oil revenues would pay for the operation with minimal loss of American lives.”
While many argue that the current Iraqi forces are incapable of securing Iraq currently, it is frequently noted that they rely too heavily on US military and government support. Once that support begins to be withdrawn, Iraqis will take seriously their independent capacity to secure and govern themselves.
“The administration’s critics, meanwhile, have offered as their alternative ‘strategy’ an accelerated timetable for withdrawal. They see Iraq as another Vietnam and advocate a similar solution: pulling out U.S. troops and hoping for the best. The costs of such premature disengagement would likely be calamitous. The insurgency could morph into a bloody civil war, with the significant involvement of both Syria and Iran. Radical Islamists would see the U.S. departure as a victory, and the ensuing chaos would drive up oil prices.”
“The strong case is that if America leaves, things will get even worse. This can only be a guess, but it is more plausible than the alternative guess that America’s going will nudge Iraq in the right direction. In the past two years, violence has tended to decline where American troops are present and to rise in the places they leave.”
A Institute of Peace report on April 6th, 2008 warned that a fast exit from Iraq “risks a complete failure of the Iraqi state, massive chaos and even genocide.” A myriad of other reports have drawn this conclusion. It is the number and authoritativeness of them that really draws attention and credibility to concerns that an early withdraw would be disastrous in Iraq.
It would result in a genocide on par with the genocide in Cambodia following the withdrawal of US troops from Vietnam.