Bring them home... not necessarily nowAs anyone who's read my essays knows, I was an opponent of the Iraq war from the beginning. I fully accept that the war was a terrible idea. I accept that the war and occupation were badly conceived. I accept that the motives of its authors were questionable and, more importantly, were always likely to be seen as dubious by those supposedly intended to be helped by this 'liberation.' I accept that the designers of the war were so blinded by a willful ignorance of human nature that the occupation couldn't possibly have gone well given these deeply flawed assumptions. I accept that the Iraq war was a shameful aggression that should never be repeated (but probably will). Nevertheless, I've never been convinced by the arguments of many other anti-war folks that we need to withdraw all our troops from Iraq immediately.
Simply put, the war was a terrible idea badly executed. But we're there now and we have to deal with it. As Colin Powell said, "You break it, you buy it." Or as my mom always said, "If you make a mess, clean it up." It's irresponsible to leave before we've introduced a modicum of stability to the Iraq where we introduced so much chaos. And it's counterproductive.
Some say that it's America's presence that's causing the instability and insecurity. I think there's merit to that assertion. Contrary to the implicit arguments of the neo-conservatives, no one likes to be occupied by foreigners. However, this argument implies that if all coalition troops just up and left tommorrow, the insurgency would simply disappear and the insurgents would suddenly turn into Churchills and Washingtons. I think that assumption is recklessly naive. If the insurgents had any political ideology other than power, wouldn't they have issued demands by now, like a normal 'liberation' group?
A hasty withdrawal of American troops is a bad idea. Not because it would 'hand the terrorists a victory.' But because it would leave Iraq in a worse state than the one we found it in (that would be the real victory for regressive al-Qaedaism). Progressives have an interest in seeing a future Iraq that is at least moderately democratic and respectful of human rights, just like they've advocated those things for Tibet and Pinochet's Chile and apartheid South Africa.
As you can infer, I've been disappointed by the lack of nuance... though not surprised considering that the vitriol and 'either you with us or with the terrorists' demagoguery was always like to provoke defensiveness. I've been frustrated by the insistence of that there are only two positions to hold: "Support the Leader/troops/war" and "Bring the troops home yesterday."
So I was interested to read an article over at Alternet, a left-wing website, arguing for a more nuanced approach than immediate and full troop withdrawal. Many anti-war Americans support one simple plan for Iraq: bring the troops home. There's been very little discussion of the fallout of such a strategy on the grounds that the very fact of removing the U.S. presence from Iraq will be an improvement per se. In other words, whatever the consequences - for Iraqis, the Middle East, or terrorism - it can only be better than what we have now, writes Lakshmi Chaudry.
We can't simply turn our backs on the millions of Iraqis - who lack basic necessities like water, electricity, food or medical care - just because many of us didn't vote for the man who caused their suffering. Is it moral for us to leave them to die in the crossfire of a violent civil war, fueled by extremists that we created? Chaos creates a political vacuum that is almost always filled by the power-hungry and the ruthless. So what will a Taliban-style regime in Iraq mean for Iraqi women? What effects will it have on the rest of the Middle East, which is already a tinderbox waiting for the careless spark of instability? Will an unstable Iraq really improve hopes for a genuine and just peace in the Middle East? These are not questions that we can afford to shrug off in the heat of anti-war rhetoric. Taken together, they constitute a giant question mark about the connection between our politics and our values.
Religious extremism, Christian, Muslim, Hindu or whatever, is the antithesis of progressive In the late 90s, a small group of progressives were pretty much the ONLY people attacking the obscene Taliban regime in Afghanistan (this was before 9/11 made demonizing them a cause celebre on the right) and calling for action against them. There should certainly be a plan for the departure of foreign troops; a plan actually based on reality and human nature, not willful ignorance. But a hasty withdrawal could well mean disaster for the Iraqis our Crusaders gave us the sacred responsibility of helping. We shouldn't have taken on the responsibility in the first place, but we did and we need to deal with what did happen not what should have happened.
Arguing for a more sane (and finite) occupation is not the same as justifying the original decision of occupation. It's simply not moral to abandon progressive ideals like democracy, human rights and fighting poverty, merely because of a fear of being associated with militarism or George W. Bush.
Neo-cons have taught us all about the dangers of utopian self-delusion. Progressives shouldn't make the same mistake.