[saymaListserv] Cut and Run? You Bet!
nc_stereoman at charter.net
Wed Jun 21 20:54:52 JEST 2006
It's unfortunate that in our nation today, former war-makers command so
much more credibility than do peacemakers, but on the other hand very
heartening when a war-maker of great renown says "enough! stop the
killing now!" And especially when it is said well.
Such is the case with retired Lt. General William Odom, who served under
Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan, lastly as head of the NSA.
These are some of the best talking points I have seen on the matter, and
I recommend that you send them to your friends, associates, local
newspapers, weblogs, discussion boards, elected officials . . .
/especially /the Democrats!
Genral Odom's remarks were published in /Foreign Policy /magazine, the
*Why America must get out of Iraq now.
Withdraw immediately or stay the present course? That is the key
question about the war in Iraq today. American public opinion is now
decidedly against the war. From liberal New England, where citizens pass
town-hall resolutions calling for withdrawal, to the conservative South
and West, where more than half of "red state" citizens oppose the war,
Americans want out. That sentiment is understandable.
The prewar dream of a liberal Iraqi democracy friendly to the United
States is no longer credible. No Iraqi leader with enough power and
legitimacy to control the country will be pro-American. Still, U.S.
President George W. Bush says the United States must stay the course.
Why? Let's consider his administration's most popular arguments for not
*If we leave, there will be a civil war.* In reality, a civil war in
Iraq began just weeks after U.S. forces toppled Saddam. Any close
observer could see that then; today, only the blind deny it. Even
President Bush, who is normally impervious to uncomfortable facts,
recently admitted that Iraq has peered into the abyss of civil war. He
ought to look a little closer. Iraqis are fighting Iraqis. Insurgents
have killed far more Iraqis than Americans. That's civil war.
*Withdrawal will encourage the terrorists.* True, but that is the price
we are doomed to pay. Our continued occupation of Iraq also encourages
the killers--precisely because our invasion made Iraq safe for them. Our
occupation also left the surviving Baathists with one choice: Surrender,
or ally with al Qaeda. They chose the latter. Staying the course will
not change this fact. Pulling out will most likely result in Sunni
groups' turning against al Qaeda and its sympathizers, driving them out
of Iraq entirely.
*Before U.S. forces stand down, Iraqi security forces must stand up.*
The problem in Iraq is not military competency; it is political
consolidation. Iraq has a large officer corps with plenty of combat
experience from the Iran-Iraq war. Moktada al-Sadr's Shiite militia
fights well today without U.S. advisors, as do Kurdish pesh merga units.
The problem is loyalty. To whom can officers and troops afford to give
their loyalty? The political camps in Iraq are still shifting. So every
Iraqi soldier and officer today risks choosing the wrong side. As a
result, most choose to retain as much latitude as possible to switch
allegiances. All the U.S. military trainers in the world cannot remove
that reality. But political consolidation will. It should by now be
clear that political power can only be established via Iraqi guns and
civil war, not through elections or U.S. colonialism by ventriloquism.
*Setting a withdrawal deadline will damage the morale of U.S. troops.*
Hiding behind the argument of troop morale shows no willingness to
accept the responsibilities of command. The truth is, most wars would
stop early if soldiers had the choice of whether or not to continue.
This is certainly true in Iraq, where a withdrawal is likely to raise
morale among U.S. forces. A recent Zogby poll suggests that most U.S.
troops would welcome an early withdrawal deadline. But the strategic
question of how to extract the United States from the Iraq disaster is
not a matter to be decided by soldiers. Carl von Clausewitz spoke of two
kinds of courage: first, bravery in the face of mortal danger; second,
the willingness to accept personal responsibility for command decisions.
The former is expected of the troops. The latter must be demanded of
high-level commanders, including the president.
*Withdrawal would undermine U.S. credibility in the world.* Were the
United States a middling power, this case might hold some water. But for
the world's only superpower, it's patently phony. A rapid reversal of
our present course in Iraq would improve U.S. credibility around the
world. The same argument was made against withdrawal from Vietnam. It
was proved wrong then and it would be proved wrong today. Since Sept.
11, 2001, the world's opinion of the United States has plummeted, with
the largest short-term drop in American history. The United States now
garners as much international esteem as Russia. Withdrawing and
admitting our mistake would reverse this trend. Very few countries have
that kind of corrective capacity. I served as a military attaché in the
U.S. Embassy in Moscow during Richard Nixon's Watergate crisis. When
Nixon resigned, several Soviet officials who had previously expressed
disdain for the United States told me they were astonished. One diplomat
said, "Only your country is powerful enough to do this. It would destroy
Two facts, however painful, must be recognized, or we will remain
perilously confused in Iraq. First, invading Iraq was not in the
interests of the United States. It was in the interests of Iran and al
Qaeda. For Iran, it avenged a grudge against Saddam for his invasion of
the country in 1980. For al Qaeda, it made it easier to kill Americans.
Second, the war has paralyzed the United States in the world
diplomatically and strategically. Although relations with Europe show
signs of marginal improvement, the trans-Atlantic alliance still may not
survive the war. Only with a rapid withdrawal from Iraq will Washington
regain diplomatic and military mobility. Tied down like Gulliver in the
sands of Mesopotamia, we simply cannot attract the diplomatic and
military cooperation necessary to win the real battle against terror.
Getting out of Iraq is the precondition for any improvement.
In fact, getting out now may be our only chance to set things right in
Iraq. For starters, if we withdraw, European politicians would be more
likely to cooperate with us in a strategy for stabilizing the greater
Middle East. Following a withdrawal, all the countries bordering Iraq
would likely respond favorably to an offer to help stabilize the
situation. The most important of these would be Iran. It dislikes al
Qaeda as much as we do. It wants regional stability as much as we do. It
wants to produce more oil and gas and sell it. If its leaders really
want nuclear weapons, we cannot stop them. But we can engage them.
None of these prospects is possible unless we stop moving deeper into
the "big sandy" of Iraq. America must withdraw now.
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