Dispatches From the Moderate Left

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Withdrawal Call

There's been a bit of attention about a call for withdrawal by Iraqi leaders:
Iraqi leaders at a reconciliation conference reached out to the Sunni Arab community by calling for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces and saying the country's opposition had a "legitimate right" of resistance.

The communique condemned terrorism but was a clear acknowledgment of the Sunni position that insurgents should not be labeled as terrorists if they don't target innocent civilians or institutions that provide for the welfare of Iraqis.

The preparatory reconciliation conference, held under the auspices of the Arab League, was attended by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Iraqi Shiite and Kurdish lawmakers as well as leading Sunni politicians.

It seems that common opposition to the US is becoming a uniting point for these disparate factions. The AP story notes that the communique condemned terrorism but deliberately left out attacks on US troops from the definition of terrorism in order to get unanimity among the delegates. It seems this is a legitimate call backed up by very high level representatives of the three groups and so it probably should be taken seriously, although it should be noted that they only agree on "calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops according to a timetable, through putting in place an immediate national program to rebuild the armed forces ... control the borders and the security situation". So in the end this might not be too different from the current US position - withdrawal when local forces are trained up sufficiently.

The big test, of course, is going to be what happens when/if the Iraqi government decides that their security forces are ready but the US insists that they aren't. This question prompted the normally (strongly pro-Bush) opinionated Redrag to get a bit contemplative:
This raises several questions:

* What if we don't feel like the Iraqis are ready, even if they do?
* What if Zarqawi's group continues to operate in Iraq?
* What if bombings and IEDs continue to go off at a similar rate as of today?
* What if, in short, we have not defeated the terrorists in Iraq in any more measurable way than we have as of today?

Now, one could argue that the Iraqis would be foolish to ask us to leave if these conditions persist. And that may be the case.

But what if, in a democratically elected government, the Iraqi people want us to leave, pressure their elected leaders to demand this, and we are therefore asked to leave before we feel like we have "achieved our mission"?

What if we are forced to leave Iraq before we can objectively claim that we have "defeated the terrorists in Iraq" and "fought them there so that we don't have to fight them here"?

It's good that US Conservatives are thinking about these questions. The answer should be fairly clear (ie, do what the Iraqis say), but when the US goes and starts building a bunch of long term military bases what will actually happen looks a bit less clear. Perhaps this call is a sign that the Iraqi government will be independent enough to force the issue to a head if the interests of the US government and Iraqi citizens start to diverge and then Bush will have to show what he's really in this war for.


  • I think you meant 'diverge' in the last sentence. Although there is perhaps a Freudian sense in which it may be correct.

    By Blogger Charles Watkins, at 10:44 AM  

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