Monday, June 13, 2005

Should I stay or should I go now?

Okay, so this is my new blog. I have many interests, from music to history to science to movies and on and on. One of my interests though is politics and I think it would be wrong not to address the single most important political issue of the day in my inaugural post.

I can't say that my basic thinking about the U.S. being in Iraq has changed significantly, however in the past several years the reality on the ground has quite obviously changed and that should be reflected in my current thoughts as what we should do.

I initially opposed going into Iraq, primarily because I believed (and still believe) that doing so would make us less safe. Our primary goal should have been reducing terrorism. Before we went in, I argued that an invasion would end up increasing the number and stridency of terrorists with a hatred of the U.S. As the Soviet's invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, and specificly the CIA trained and armed mujahadeen fighters, led to the current leadership of al-Qaida; so I maintained that invading Iraq would be organized terrorism's greatest recruitment and training tool. In addition, invading Iraq would (did) draw off forces that were needed to locate and eliminate al-Qaida.

Once we were there however, my belief was that we needed to say and finish the job leaving the Iraqis with a viable state - sometimes known as Colin Powell's Pottery Barn rule, "you break it, you bought it."

Over the past nine months or so though, I have become increasingly more convinced that, with the current force structure and within any sort of reasonable time frame, it is not possible to secure the country much less help them develop a viable, unified government.

The Bush administration has already stated an unwillingness, if indeed it even has the capability, to increase the number of forces in the region to a number that would be necessary to effect a rapid stabilization (something on the order of 1,000,000 military persons in the region). In addition, it is looking highly doubtful that the military has the resources to act decisively if there were a major flare-up somewhere around the world - a fact which has not gone unnoticed by either Iran or North Korea.

Without such numbers estimates on the time necessary to complete the mission in Iraq vary from 5-25 years, in other words god only knows. The most recent poll numbers show that support for the war is around 40% and there's no reason to assume that a protracted deployment will do anything but shrink these numbers. As well, the military is facing massive problems in recruiting new soldiers and Marines, while the administration has ruled out a return to the draft; and given that the current manpower crisis is directly related to the war in Iraq, the longer the unpopular war continues the more serious the personnel shortage will become.

If we don't have the resources to solve the problem in the short term, and we don't have the resources in either manpower or popularity, to stick it out long term; the question becomes, "when and under what circumstances should we withdraw?" There are no easy answers to this question. If we leave prior to completing the mission, it is highly likely that Iraq will devolve into civil war and fracture into three separate states upsetting the balance in the region that was in place prior to the invasion.

I'm willing to listen to any ideas that are presented about the best way to extricate ourselves from a bad situation, but if my calculus about our ability to succeed is correct, staying the course is not helping and is only costing the lives and health of our military personnel.


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