[saymaListserv] Cut and Run? You Bet!

Steve Livingston nc_stereoman at charter.net
Wed Jun 21 20:54:52 JEST 2006

Dear Friends,

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 
May/June issue.

*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 
leaving Iraq.

*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 
my country."

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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