Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Pulling Out Could Make Iraq Worse - We should pull out anyway

OK, about the only defense of the Republican "stay the course" policy in Iraq is that pulling out would make the situation worse (this is of course granting that the only choices are continue as before and leave). But I argue that even if pulling out would make Iraq worse we should pull out anyway.

When we pull out there will be an increase in violence. It just doesn't matter when we pull out, the situation in Iraq will deteriorate. I've seen a number of recent studies on civil wars and civil wars with third party interventions and the evidence is pretty good that "letting them fight it out" ultimately is the only solution. Third party interventions don't end civil wars, they prolong them at a lower level of violence or, at best, supress them until that third party goes away. At that point, the level of violence spikes and the belligerents resume "fighting it out."

So the question for the US is not should we stay and solve the problem or leave and let the problem get worse. Solving the problems in Iraq is not in our power. All we can do is get in the way of two or three (or more!) armed factions that have already begun to fight it out. Our choice is how long are we going to stand between the Sunnis, Shia and Kurds in Iraq? Keep in mind that every day we stand there we lose young lives, money and political capital on the world scene.

This is EXACTLY the situation many of us who opposed the war in the first place predicted. Now we have to pay the piper. The question is how many dances are we going to pay for. I say the fewer the better. Start pulling out now!


Anonymous said...

Despite what James Baker says (and as slimeballs go he is both very slimey and not an idiot. He has demonstrated som real skill from time to time) the real solution that the United States can pursue is to federate the country to the point of almost autonomy for three regions: East Iraq, West Iraq and Kurdistan. Yes, Turkey will freak out, but this is in OUR interest. The main point of federation should be for a pooling of oil revenue, the distributions of which should be administered by a legal and non-partisan mechanism. We could police the borders as occupiers for a set period. Eight years maybe, ten. Whatever. Then leave.

Leaving immediately probably is not the horror show some would purport it to be. I do think we owe the country something for having ruined it so incredibly. Les Gelb wrote that Vietnam was not the start of a domino effect when we left and this too might not turn out so bad. I do think this is different as a pathology has set in that is indicative of widescale, murderous carnage. When we left Vietnam, the North simply won, took over and held the state it holds today. Iraq would inflame into a widespread action on many fronts. I don't know if that's stoppable. But separating the country seems to make some sense.

// posted by The Acting President

Anonymous said...

I'd be all for federalizing the country but the real question is "Will such a deal hold once we do eventually leave?" US West raised this point earlier I think. The research on civil war settlements would suggest that the deal that ends the fighting will be most likely to hold if all the sides involved have suffered enormous numbers of casualties (the unit of measure is often "mega-deaths"). Such settlements are least likely to hold when imposed by an outside third party (for example us). The worst case scenario is one in which a settlement is imposed on the sides by an outside third party before the war had really settled the real power relationships.

From the US point of view then, we must ask if staying will actually benefit the Iraqis - the best political science research suggests it will not - and whether it will benefit us - staying will certainly cost more lives and treasure and probably not result in a stable peace even if we flood the country with troops.

So we should cut our losses and leave. In truth we never should have gone in in the first place precisely because this choice was almost inevitable. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Dr. Strangelove said...

There is one argument against leaving. Al Qaeda has set up some level of operations in Iraq, similar to (but not nearly as extensive as) what it once had in Afghanistan. Would Iraq become a "failed state" or at least a state--like Pakistan--that appears unable to police itself?

This is another spot where the Bush administrations' lies hurt us badly. On the one hand, they tell us the Iraq government is strong and will be able to handle its own security soon (though "soon" keeps getting pushed down the road.) They say the insurgency is in its last throes. But on the other hand, they warn of the direst consequences if we leave... indicating that either the government is really a lot weaker than they say, or the insurgency a lot stronger, or both.

I am not sure I agree that a form of partition is wise. How has it been working for Bosnia? I had the impression it was lousy there. Maybe RbR (who I tend to think of as my Europe expert) knows?

Anonymous said...

I'm not so much expert in the countries in the Balkans but my impression is that Bosnia's condition is stable but guarded. The international peace keeping presence there has been cut way back and there has been little renewed violence. That said, the Serbian areas continue to be independent for most purposes. Many wanted criminals (f.ex. Mladic) are rumored to be in that area.

But it's not the disaster people are predicting in Iraq.

My point of view on Iraq is not so much based on an expectation of nice times ahead if we pull out but rather a recognition that disaster will strike regardless of whether we pull out now or 3 years from now. The only difference we can make is what costs we incur between now and when we do pull out.  

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

Bosnia is, more or less, a success of international peacemaking. It's a qualified success, but there is peace and relative stability, while all the countries are seeking EU membership with various degrees of responsiveness. It helps that the economy of Bosnia is not a zero-sum game. As RBR has pointed out, Iraq's oil means that the phrase "to the victor belong the spoils" refers to basically all  economic activity in Iraq, and is inimical to democracy.

As for Iraq, I think the basic sentiment is that it is a bad idea to delay extracting a splinter on the theory that it will hurt. It will indeed hurt. That's why you shouldn't have been handling the raw lumber to begin with. But delaying it will not reduce the pain. Far from it. Or, as CS Lewis put it in another context: if you are marching down the wrong road, then turning around 180 degrees and going back is, actually, progress. 

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

I'm reminded of the Economist's cartoon of Northern Ireland being a trap that the English lion had its foot in.

I also think it's an interesting political tactic to adopt a "narrow time window": "Whether or not you have come to realize what a horrible mess the Bush administration has gotten us into, now that we're in this mess, wouldn't you trust the Republicans more than the Democrats to handle it?"

I now understand why people who deserve to be blamed "don't want to play the blame game".  

// posted by Bob

Anonymous said...

Bush staffers are now "clarifying" the Bush position on Iraq. They never meant "stay the course" it seems. Their policy is much more than that.  

// posted by RBR

Anonymous said...

Bob, that classic cartoon, which I remember, had the lion saying with his foot bleeding in a steel trap, with one side of the jaw labeled "Irish protestants" and the other "Catholics." The lion had his free paw raised as if to make a point, and said, "the good news is, I've kept them apart for 20 years." If I can find a link I'll post it.

Actually, RBR, what we're finding out is that the reason "stay the course" is a misnomer is that they never had any course. 

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

Everything Bush has done since his re-non-election has reminded me of the Simpsons episode when Homer, Wiggam and the guys are digging a whole looking for treasure. But when they get the whole good and deep they realize two things. 1) there ain't no treasure. 2) they forgot to bring a ladder. So Homer raises his free paw - er - hand as if to make a point and proclaims, "We'll dig our way out!" As the picture goes to black and then to the credits you hear Wiggam's voice say, "No! Dig UP stupid!" 

// posted by Raised By Republicans