Sunday, June 10, 2007
The idea's been making the rounds for the past week or so, ever since President Bush compared Iraq to S. Korea. But Tom Ricks' WaPo article seems to make it official: the Pentagon brass is putting the finishing touches on a plan to maintain a longterm military presence based in Iraq after the bulk of American forces are drawn down. The timeframe for drawing down the lion's share of the troops just happens to be -- surprise, surprise -- the middle to end of 2008, ie. just in time to influence the presidential election.
Now, setting aside the Rovian timeframe and the boneheaded comparisons to the Korean Peninsula, the idea itself happens to be a good one, or at least the least bad one -- and I don't say that just because I happened to propose it back in February. It effectively ends what's known as the Iraq War by removing American forces from the line of fire of Iraq's civil war. It does so while securing our strategic interests in the country (namely, guaranteeing Iraq's territorial integrity and preventing a collapse into failed statehood). And it provides an insurance policy against any fullscale massacres and sectarian bloodletting that might follow a precipitous withdrawal.
Critics have pointed out that our presence catalyzes the Sunni insurgency and impedes the process of national reconciliation needed to put an end to sectarian violence. I would argue that by turning day to day governance and security issues over to Iraqis, they'll have their hands too full to worry about our garrisons tucked as far out of sight as possible. If not, the day will come sooner rather than later when an Iraqi government asks us to leave. So be it.
Hopefully those who oppose the war (and I count myself among them) will recognize this as a way to end it. Probably the quickest and safest way, too, both for American troops and Iraqi civilians.