On June 30, control of Iraq will supposedly be handed over to its people. Yet, with the rising death toll and mayhem in Iraq, this date seems haphazard, although cynics have commented that it does fall during the prime campaign season. An exit strategy, as well as strategies to stop the current violence in the region, remain absent. An uncoordinated, rushed handling of the situation could destabilize the region and as further erode international relations.
In the last week alone, dozens of U.S. troops have died. Conflicting reports of Iraqi casualties, some claiming numbers around 200 paint a dreary picture.
The situation appears so bad to some that Sen. Edward Kennedy, among others, has compared Iraq with the war in Vietnam. There are certain parallels with the United States and its involvement in Vietnam. For one, troops who are trained to combat an enemy who openly faces them in battle, now face guerilla techniques by several factions.
Main differences include the situation leading up to the Vietnam War, which was fought to combat a looming Soviet involvement in the region. In Iraq, there is no such major power vying for control of the region. It is, rather, the lack of such a faction that is causing the problems. The power vacuum in the country formerly controlled by a totalitarian regime leaves it open for many new factions and one old one to gain a foothold.
The damage in Iraq is done. What started through the U.S. government pushing its own agenda in the region cannot lead to the United States abandoning the region because it is not the “cakewalk” Vice President Dick Cheney announced it would be. This war cannot be won by the White House declaring it is a “test of will.” We need more than “will,” but rather a sound plan and international backing if the endeavor is to be effective.
Naturally, a way of handing over power to the Iraqi people should be found as soon as possible, but it should not be fixed to a date if it cannot be assured that the newly created democracy isn’t doomed from the start.
If the government refuses to recognize this, the United States may end up having to stay in the region even longer. And if our country has learned one thing during the war in Vietnam, the lesson is that committing to 14 years of warfare can be quite a scarring experience for all parties involved.