Leaving Iraq

LEAVING IRAQ….Matt Yglesias and Phil Carter both make arguments today in favor of withdrawing from Iraq ? not out of a sense of defeatism, but because it’s the only way to accomplish our goals. Matt’s argument is that it’s the very presence of U.S. troops that’s keeping the insurgency alive. What’s more, he says, our presence prevents Iraqis from taking responsibility for the success of their own political process:

One can plausibly make the case that our open-ended military commitment encourages brinksmanship and maximalism on the part of Iraqis “inside” the political process rather than the spirit of “hang together or hang separately” that the situation requires.

Phil makes the case that since the Army is stretched to the breaking point, it has little choice but to begin troop drawdowns fairly soon anyway. Given that, they’ll make lemonade out of their lemons:

I believe that the U.S. military will preserve itself rather than let the war tear it apart.

What does this mean in practical terms? Simple. Over the next year or two, you are going to see an increasing amount of effort being applied to “Iraqification”. We are going to devote more and more troops to getting their security forces “trained and ready”, such that we can draw down our forces and hand over the country. The building of Iraqi forces is the key task for the U.S. in establishing a new and stable government in Iraq.

Phil doesn’t seem very sure that “Iraqification” is a winning strategy rather than just a convenient excuse for something we have to do anyway, and who can blame him? After all, it bears more than a faint resemblance to “Vietnamization,” Richard Nixon’s identical ? and ill-fated ? idea for reducing our presence in Vietnam. What’s more, the rationale behind Vietnamization was very similar to Matt’s argument about Iraq’s political process. If history isn’t repeating itself here, it sure is rhyming nicely.

But cynical or not, maybe this is the right formula. We should make the argument that (a) it’s only the fear that we plan to stay in Iraq permanently that keeps the insurgency alive, (b) we can eliminate that fear by publicly announcing a timetable for withdrawal, and (c) with the wind taken out of the insurgents’ sails, Iraqi forces will be adequate to keep control.

Of course, this all depends on the notion that Bush & Co. want to withdraw from Iraq in the first place. This is, needless to say, far from clear.