Point-Counterpoint

Stephen Flynn

A withdrawal of American troops from Iraq is the only responsible choice for our next president to make in 2009. Leaving Iraq is in the best interest of not only the Iraqis, but also the United States. In continuing the policy of indefinite occupation of Iraq, this country has sacrificed too much money, blood, and power to make staying worth it. Iraq would benefit from a US withdrawal because they would gain their independence, stability would replace the chaotic situation they have now, and fewer Iraqis would die as a result.

The United States has spent almost half a trillion dollars in waging this war. President Bush’s spending request has increased every year since the war began in 2003. The war appropriations do not include other indirect costs, such as health care for wounded veterans which could total another half trillion dollars according to The New England Journal of Medicine.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office recently estimated that the war costs could total $2.4 trillion when you take into account the interest on borrowed funds. That’s $8,000, per person in the US. That includes you.

It’s not enough that the war has placed an enormous financial burden on the American taxpayer. It has also put an enormous burden on the American soldier. Almost 4,000 have lost their lives. Nobody, not a single person deserves to have lost their life in an unnecessary war. Not one additional military family should have to suffer from losing a loved one.

In addition to the loss of life, the military is stretched dangerously thin as a result of the war. In a poll of current and retired military officers, 60 percent said the military was weaker than 5 years ago. Many top generals have suggested that the current deployment levels in Iraq are unsustainable.

A vast majority of officers believe that the US would be unable to wage another war. Our military should be able to meet the challenges of the global threats facing the United States, and the costly adventures in Iraq makes that ability far more difficult.

Iraq, like every other country, is entitled to its independence. When foreign troops occupy and manage domestic aspects of the country, they deprive that country of its independence. A foreign occupation -no matter how well-intentioned-produces undesirable side-effects.

There’s a video on Youtube of a US military Humvee weaving through traffic in Baghdad, bumping cars from behind, driving on the wrong side of the road while Iraqi drivers do their best to avoid being hit. Regardless if those tactics are necessary to avoid an insurgent attack, Iraqis having to tolerate that kind of behavior every day on their own roads is not the mark of an independent people.

Would Americans like it if Chinese military jeeps drove on our roads, violating our rules? Would we like to be occupied? If we wouldn’t like it, we shouldn’t do it to others.

If the US withdrew from Iraq, stability would follow, not a civil war. Other civil wars in the Middle East have occurred in part because one sectarian group could not overwhelming control the whole country. The Lebanese civil war dragged on for many years because each sectarian group was about equal in size. Iraq is a different case because the 60% Shiite majority of could easily overpower the 20% Sunni Arab minority.

Not only are the numbers stacked against a civil war, but so is the region itself. Historically Iraq itself has been a very stable country but so have its neighbors. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Syria and Jordan have all enjoyed prolonged periods of internal stability (regional instability is partly to blame for the Lebanese civil war).

Another source of future stability is oil. Iraq is sitting on the second largest oil reserves in the world, and oil creates the incentive for stability. With hundreds of billions of dollars in potential future revenues, Iraqis have a reason to work together to best harness this blessed natural resource. Oil has created a stable political environment in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Iran, and in the future, Iraq.

When the US leaves Iraq, there will be a transition period in which the Shiite majority asserts control over all of Iraq. The notion that this would precipitate a genocide is preposterous in the very least. There is no evidence that Shiite leaders want to exterminate all other Iraqi minorities. While the transition period may be bloody, it will lead to a better future for all Iraqis. Besides, Iraqis are dying already. A conservative estimate puts civilian casualties at around 85,000 from all violence in Iraq. This number will continue to grow until we leave.

The war in Iraq needs to end with an immediate withdrawal of all US troops. Our sacrifices have been too great to warrant any further commitment to that country, and Iraq deserves its independence. How Iraq and the Iraqis wish to organize their country should be entirely up to them. If it creates an undesirable end for the United States, then so be it.

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