US out of Iraq?

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Adam Shostack thinks he has a way out of the Iraq conflict:
When the British were fighting the communist insurgency in Malaysia, on top of their hearts and minds campaign, one of their most potent weapons was a promise to withdraw, but only after the insurgency had ended.

It seems to me that this is the perfect move for the United States in Iraq. Some (fixed) time period after the last civilians are killed, the United States will fully withdraw all our troops. This puts the native portions of the insurgency in a bind: If their goal is to expel the United States, all they need to do is wait.

It gives the Iraqis time to build a civil government, free of attacks. If there are people whose goal is simply to kill Americans, it isolates them.

If only I had any confidence in the ability of the Bush administration to administer a foreign policy.

This strategy probably does work if you're fighting a basically nationalistic adversary, but it's not clear that that's the situation in Iraq. Iraq is a PR black eye for the US as long as we're there and the situation doesn't improve a lot. Moreover, it represents a very substantial drain on the US's resources. Combine this with the conventional wisdom that Al Qaeda wants to incite a war with the West and it seems like keeping the insurgency at a level where the US is forced to stay in and keep losing personnel is a pretty good strategy for them.

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5 Comments

It also requires credibility, something that the current administration has none of.

I think it's a mistake to believe that all the anti-US fighters in Iraq share the same goals and organisation, or that they are part of the same command structure as the London or 9/11 terrorists.


"Al Quaeda", like "IRA", is a tag that has been picked up by lots of different organisations who have different victory/surrender conditions, and what works for one may not work for another.


I'm always disappointed at the failure of anyone to refer to the Northern Ireland peace process when talking about how to deal with terrorists.

IIRC, the U.S. have already made an even better offer: they will withdraw if the Iraqi government asks them to. Apparently, this hasn't helped much.

Peter,

I think that's absolutely correct, but that makes it even less likely than an approach like Adam's will work, since surely some insurgent group wants the US to stay in Iraq indefinitely.

Except that so many of them want us to leave: those who want us to stay would get outvoted at the firing range...

The problem is, we have destroyed the Iraqi state. We leave, and there will be civil war. (This may be our best option, however...)

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