The situation in Iraq has reached the point where the only reasonable solution is an aggressive, focused American commitment to withdrawal, effective immediately.
The Bush administration’s fantastic vision of a stable, strong and economically independent state as the centerpiece of a larger policy to democratize the Middle East is a pipe dream. Whether creating this sort of state was ever plausible is debatable, but three years of mismanagement, shortsightedness and stubbornness have now made it impossible.
It’s time for America to face reality. Whatever delusions this nation may have entertained have been quashed by bloody civil war, mounting American and Iraqi casualties, politically paralyzing tit-for-tat bickering among Iraqi and American leaders, as well as a general lack of progress in nearly every important area of the rebuilding effort.
America’s last best hope is to begin the process of pulling itself out of Iraq’s political and economic quicksand – right now.
A survey of the situation should convince anyone, even Republican hawks, that things have deteriorated and a quick withdrawal is the only viable solution.
First there is the violence. Casualties, stemming from a runaway insurgency and rampant sectarian warfare, have ballooned in recent months. Nearly 3,000 American soldiers have died, and estimates of Iraq’s civilian and military body count are much higher, numbering anywhere from 50,000 to 500,000, depending on the study. In most of the country, Iraq’s citizens face the prospect of death daily, and Americans and foreigners – as well as many Iraqis working for the new government – are prisoners within Baghdad’s green zone.
There are no signs that any of this is improving. In fact, this year was the bloodiest since Iraq’s liberation. To those who say the United States should not leave because Iraq will become a violent underworld: too late. Iraq is experiencing a national armageddon, and the threat to America is rising because of its involvement – not despite it.
Then there’s the crippled economy. Unemployment has swelled to 30 percent, providing the insurgency with a pool of angry, bored youth ripe for recruitment. The private sector is a joke. No foreign investor would dream of putting money into Iraq. The infrastructure is decimated thanks to repeated insurgent sabotage, as well as the incompetence and malfeasance of private firms such as Halliburton, which received non-competitive bid contracts from the Bush administration without even the hint of a vetting process.
Next is the sectarian quarreling in Iraq’s government, which is crawling forward with reconciliation talks. The Shias, Sunnis and Kurds have deep divisions based on a long history of conflict, and the present government doesn’t seem very interested in attempting to fix any of them.
Finally, Iraq has become a fiscal black hole, eating away billions of American tax dollars. Recent studies from the Milken Institute Review and the American Enterprise Institute put the budgetary, social and macroeconomic costs of the Iraq War at between $1 trillion and $2 trillion. The higher figure works out to $6,600 per American man, woman and child. These numbers dwarf the original prewar estimate of $50 million, provided by Donald Rumsfeld. Hardly a “slam dunk.”
Continuing to pretend the possibility of achieving a stable, unified democratic Iraq still exists is not only absurd, but also could cost thousands more American lives and billions – if not trillions – more tax dollars.
America must begin a phased withdrawal process that puts the responsibility for securing Iraq on the Iraqi security forces, incorporates the help and ideas of European countries and Arab neighbors, and demands that Iraq’s elected leaders quit playing childish political games and start making real progress on difficult issues dividing the rival factions.
With this policy there is a chance, though a slim one, that America can disentangle itself from this disaster of a war and still leave behind an Iraq that can hold itself together. At this point, the situation in Iraq has regressed so far that this is the best-case scenario.
The dream of a free, democratic Iraq as a beacon of democracy and change for the rest of the Middle East is simply dead, and it’s time for America to bury it. The best the United States can hope for now is to get out before things get any worse.
David Guidi is a junior majoring in mass communications.