Abandoning Iraq has humanitarian consequences

The war in Iraq proved a hot topic during the presidential primaries, and it certainly became a defining point in Barack Obama’s path to the presidency. Unfortunately, President-elect Obama’s plans for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq may not be the most benevolent of actions after all.

The question is not whether America should have pursued military action in Iraq. The fact is, America is currently engaged in a war in Iraq whether it likes it or not. America must discuss options for the most effective removal of troops, policies to ensure stability in the region and actions that will not negatively affect the Iraqi people.

Obama’s plan for immediately withdrawing one or two brigades from Iraq each month will be detrimental to the safety of our troops because our enemy remains organized in sufficient numbers. Being brash enough to set a deadline for complete withdrawal allows the sectarian insurgents in Iraq to know when they can safely come out of hiding.

Images that flooded the media when Saigon fell remain burned into the memories of many living during the Vietnam era. Knowing the U.S. troops were leaving empowered the North Vietnamese to advance. Marines had to flee by helicopter from rooftops with the enemy close behind. South Vietnamese citizens stormed the U.S. embassy in Saigon, hoping to be lucky enough to be evacuated.

Will similar events take place in Iraq as a result of a rapid troop withdrawal? Certainly the enemy in Iraq is not as vastly organized as the Viet Cong, but Iraqi insurgent groups may be emboldened by the end of U.S. occupation. Clearly, the only way to avoid such circumstances is to continue the fragmentation of such insurgent groups, or at least establish an effective Iraqi infrastructure to continue what America originally set out to do.

Adapting instead of abandoning the causes in Iraq will help stabilize the Middle East. Promoting stability in a region that is perhaps the most volatile part of the world has obvious benefits, both humanitarian and economic. Eliminating leaders of failed states who adopt institutions of terrorism, threaten America and its allies and ignore U.N. mandates has clear implications for the security of the free world.

No doubt the Iraqi people are better off without a ruthless dictator like Saddam Hussein who instituted a regime of torture, genocide and further crimes against humanity. Withdrawal from Iraq before goals are completed could create a scenario in which the insurgent groups reclaim control of the nation and return the Iraqi people to the bondage of a terrorist regime.

Admittedly, the decision to go to war with Iraq was flawed, necessitating a serious reevaluation of America’s military presence there.

A report by the Council on Foreign Relations stated: “With a degree of patience, the United States can build on a pattern of positive change in Iraq that offers it a chance to draw down troops soon without giving up hope for sustained stability.”

The authors estimate that America could safely remove half of its troops by 2011, a year after the approximate date by which President-elect Obama would like to have all of our troops withdrawn from Iraq.

Americans must maintain the basic universal human rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Human beings should not have to live in a world where people are murdered for the color of their skin or their religious affiliation. America’s actions in Iraq, though far from perfect, have helped to promote ideals of equality and to free the Iraqi people from an oppressive regime.

Perhaps this is not the friendliest political climate in which to suggest a humanitarian cause for continued action in Iraq, but America can’t ignore the elephant in the room. Hasty withdrawal from Iraq while our enemy still lurks in the shadows will endanger our troops, the Iraqi people and the security of the world at large.

Brendan Collett is a sophomore majoring in public relations and psychology.