Saturday, September 30, 2006

Iraq ---What if the U.S. withdraws?

Late last night on HBO I watched a rerun of a Bill Maher show that had first aired three weeks ago. The panel members were: P.J. O'Rourke, the libertarian-conservative wit; an editor at; the leader of Matchbox 20; and of course Maher. The subject of the half hour or so discussion was primarily Iraq and the related issues of the terrorist threat, terrorist torture, Israel and Iran. It was entertaining, if that's appropriate to say. There were definitely different starting points on the issues but all agreed that things are a mess today. But the question "what do we do now" was asked at the end, and on a program where anything can be said using any colorful language or expression, with clearly opinionated folks participating, no one could or would answer the question.

Why? Although not said, my guess is that despite the mess we appear to be in, what happens if we withdraw?

Should I speculate? Sure why not---my opinion totally.

If we withdraw, Iraq would go into a short, perhaps very short, period of reprisal, violence and chaos. We would see videos of American bases being trashed by jubilant crowds, waving flags, and standing atop abandoned U.S. vehicles and buildings. The fact that many of the 70% of eligible Iraqi voters who participated in the national election(far greater of course than participation here in the U.S. where the dangers are somewhat different) might be hiding in their homes in terror would probably not be a key focus of media attention.

But this may be a brief period. Very quickly, through an alliance and aid, Shiite Iran would become a de facto partner with the Shiite majority(60%). Once order was restored, the Sunnis(20%), presumed to be toast, would be powerless but relatively safe as Iran's influence would persuade the Iraqi Shiites that the political benefit of the appearance of unified Muslims required a show of restraint and, at least on the surface, reconciliation. The message would be that it was the U.S. intervention that led to the brother against brother violence and now, please listen all of you Sunni Saudis, peace can prevail.

The Kurds in the north(20%) who have been minding their own business and getting along ok(although not especially prosperously) being out of the epicenter of terrorism and violence, would over time become the new Bosnia, with the Shiite/Sunni Iraqis from the south and the Iranians from the east playing the Serb role and the Kurds getting the Bosnian non-Serb role. Without an American presense, Turkey would contain the western border and, while giving lip service to peace, would likely block supply routes and slow humanitarian aid.

One could say to this scenario "Impossible, the Iraqis and the Iranians fought a WWI type war in the '80's, and the Sunnis humiliated the Shiites for at least 25 years ". But that was all under the secular Sunni Saddam tyranny, and things have changed.

For the U.S. the result of withdrawal would likely have significant global political ramifications, mostly not too good---not much upside in this, at least in the short term. Far worse, however, no one can rule out the possibility that this situation could raise the ante such that it leads to an eventual conflict that would be the equivalent of a World War. Very far-fetched thought I hope, but it did happen twice in the 20th century.

The other unfortunate possibility is that this totally speculative line of thinking, if also in the minds of others, could lead either Israel or the U.S., with the unspoken acquiesense of the Saudi monarchy, to look for or create an opportunity to deal with Iran soon.

Hey, this has been upbeat? What IS the best solution now, given the situation as it is now, looking ahead and not backward, and putting politics aside(how naive am I). It is obviously a difficult question, but using diplomacy on all fronts and scaling back carefully when given opportunities seems to be the middle ground. That's not a satisfying or creative solution and it's sad that there is no quick resolution in sight. But maybe six weeks from now this discussion can begin. At the moment, however, the Bush/Cheney parade is going to save us from the terrorists next door while the Democrats will campaign on multiple opinion fronts, depending on their home constituents' views, to regain some power.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So what.

10:59 AM  

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