On Leaving Iraq

I want our troops out of that country as much as anyone. Unfortunately, I find myself in complete agreement with Tom Ricks, author of Fiasco and The Gamble and now a special military correspondent for the WaPo, who said last week on Fresh Air:

Thomas_Ricks.jpgWhen people say, oh, we should just get out of Iraq, we gave them a chance, in my heart I agree. I think staying in Iraq is wrong for American forces. My problem is, I think leaving Iraq is wronger. There are no good answers here… There are only bad answers, and I think it all comes from the fruit of the poison tree, which is the original decision to invade Iraq. We invaded a country on false premises, preemptively; I think, perhaps, the worst decision in the history of American foreign policy. And Americans, I think, still don’t grasp just what a terribly expensive decision that was, not just in money, but also in blood and moral credibility.

Also this week, Tony Blair said he has no regrets over toppling Saddam Hussein, arguing that the world is more secure and that Iraq has replaced “the certainty of suppression” with “the uncertainty of democratic politics.”

I’ll be interested to see Blair stand by that position 20 years from now. Also this week, the relevant portion from President Obama’s SOTU speech:

As we take the fight to al Qaeda, we are responsibly leaving Iraq to its people. As a candidate, I promised that I would end this war, and that is what I am doing as President. We will have all of our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this August. We will support the Iraqi government as they hold elections, and continue to partner with the Iraqi people to promote regional peace and prosperity. But make no mistake: this war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home.

I’ll be interested to see if the president stands by that 20 months from now. Ricks expects he will. But:

If Iraq does descend into violence and that violence involves the region in a kind of a World-War-I type scenario, America will be blamed. And I think that will be very difficult for us.

Iraq holds national elections on March 7.

  

14 Comments

  1. Thousands in Tokyo, Japan protest U.S. presence for noise, crime

    Thousands of protesters from across Japan are demonstrating against the United States military presence in the country as a Cabinet minister and a Mayor are calling for the tens of thousands of troops to be removed from Japan.

    Before we settle in Iraq for another 40 years, how about getting the hell out of Japan. We go into foreign countries, build bases and never leave…

  2. Right. It was called the department of defense for a reason.

    (Please find something we can disagree on. Please?)

  3. I don't care. We are damned if we do and damned if we don't. Our self interest does NOT include staying in Iraq. If we have to invade again we can. We are good at invading, bad at nation building. besides if we continue to invade over and over the population will become reduced to the point of non-relevance eventually anyway. Cruel, but what do ya do when you arte broke?

    It’s Bush’s fault.

  4. “how about getting the hell out of Japan”

    China is wondering about that, no doubt.

  5. I guess most of us agree that we should have never invaded and occupied Iraq, but we did. (I know some will argue that it was the good war). .

    After messing that country up so much, I guess we have some responsibility to leave it in a somewhat not-so-messy condition. We are doing that.

    But after almost nine years, a trillion dollars, and losing over 4,000 of our finest, it is now high time for the Iraqis to assume the reponsibilioty to defend and fend for themselves,

    We have done more than what would have ever have been expected of us. No guilt trip for Americans.

    Get out of there as scheduled.

    If we stayed there another ten years, pulled out then and the country went to hell in hen basket, would we still be blaming whatever U.S. adiministration is then in power? Don't think so. So let's not even think of blaming the Obama adminstration for getting the hell out of there as has been agreed to by the previous administration.

  6. There are only bad answers, and I think it all comes from the fruit of the poison tree, which is the original decision to invade Iraq.

    That says it all. Of course now that we broke it we have a certain responsibility to not leave it hanging. I suspect Tony Blair will eventually end up with his own “Fog of War”, although I doubt GWB will. It was a terrible display of leadership and it's a pity there will be so little accountability for it's architects.

  7. (Please find something we can disagree on. Please?)

    Not to worry, I still think Republicans are racists, Red States are full of welfare queens (Corporate Welfare), and that the US would be a far better place had Lincoln let the South go…

    And a single payer health-care system is what this country needs…

    And Unions are a force for the greater good…

  8. My father is retired a army Colonel. He was very much against the Iraq invasion. Playing the devil's advocate in our family discussion, I said I was hopeful, having been wrong going in, that President Bush (at the time) seemed determined to get us out. “Out of Iraq?” my father queried. “Hell, we can't even get out of Germany… or Japan.” He reminded me that the only countries our military has invaded and subsequently left are those which where they have lost the war (North Korea and Vietnam…) If history is any guide, our military will be in Iraq for the remainder of current times.

  9. Right. Thank you. I feel better now.

  10. Fiasco and The Gamble are two very good books that demonstrate the author's journalistic neutrality on the subject. He pulls no punches, but also gives credit where it is due…lower ranking officers included. I think Ricks is someone we should listen to.

    We are still in Germany and Japan because those bases help us extend our military empire. We can be in many place very quickly because of the bases in those countries. It isn't so much that we can't get out…it is more than we want to stay.

  11. You're welcome…

  12. We are still in Germany and Japan because those bases help us extend our military empire.

    And there is the problem, we cannot afford that empire anymore and probably never could…

  13. Guest Post: The Military-Industrial Complex is Ruining the Economy

    Everyone knows that the too big to fails and their dishonest and footsy-playing regulators and politicians are largely responsible for trashing the economy.

    But the military-industrial complex shares much of the blame.

    Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says that the Iraq war will cost $3-5 trillion dollars.

    Sure, experts say that the Iraq war has increased the threat of terrorism. See this, this, this, this, this, this and this. And we launched the Iraq war based on the false linkage of Saddam and 9/11, and knowingly false claims that Saddam had WMDs. And top British officials, former CIA director George Tenet, former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill and many others say that the Iraq war was planned before 9/11. But this essay is about dollars and cents.

    America is also spending a pretty penny in Afghanistan. The U.S. admits there are only a small handful of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. As ABC notes:

    U.S. intelligence officials have concluded there are only about 100 al Qaeda fighters in the entire country.

    With 100,000 troops in Afghanistan at an estimated yearly cost of $30 billion, it means that for every one al Qaeda fighter, the U.S. will commit 1,000 troops and $300 million a year.

    Sure, the government apparently planned the Afghanistan war before 9/11 (see this and this). And the Taliban offered to turn over Bin Laden (see this and this). And we could have easily killed Bin Laden in 2001 and again in 2007, but chose not to, even though that would have saved the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars in costs in prosecuting the Afghanistan war.But this essay is about dollars and cents.

    Read it and weep…

  14. If you put a turd in a rock tumbler, what comes out may be shiny, but it's still a turd.

    We have to get out of Iraq. The country will likely fall into chaos but they'll have to get themselves out of it. We are only exacerbating the problem, and spending too much money in the interim.

    Gee, I wish we weren't dependent on foreign oil. Then we wouldn't have to give a crap about them at all.

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