Point-Counterpoint: Iraq pullout

J.B. Sivanich

(Brent Schwert)

The range of opinions on how to exit from Iraq vary from increasing troop numbers in order to preserve Iraq’s newborn “democracy” (the President) to pulling out in a year and crossing one’s fingers (most Democrats).
Though America still has the moral obligation to stay in Iraq, the reality of American troops’ effectiveness is not so absolute. Conditions in Iraq have been deteriorating without pause for many years, and by most expert accounts more troops will not make any noticeable improvement.
In reality, the ongoing presence of American troops will only worsen the situation – Iraqis definitely don’t want us there. Last January, attacks on coalition forces averaged around 180 a day.
On the other hand, pulling out of Iraq will almost guarantee a civil war, with civilians looking to sectarian militias for protection. The two possible results of civil war would be a hardliner Shii’a dictatorship as the favorable – and most likely – outcome, or increased involvement by major Middle East players – Iran and Saudi Arabia – that could digress into a conflict that some experts are already predicting could be the next full-blown war, not just a superpower invading some hopeless third-world country.
Both of these courses of action are unacceptable in my view, though I see President Bush’s plan as the lesser of two evils. The only reasonable plan I can support is the transfer of American troops to U.N. peacekeeping troops.
This would prevent civil war but calm Iraqi questions of America’s intentions in our occupation. In theory, the U.N. troops would help pacify the sectarian violence, train more reliable Iraqi police, provide humanitarian aid to civilians, and strengthen Iraq’s already damaged and weak government.
This is what we set out to do, and it is highly questionable whether the U.N. can get the job done, but Iraqis would be less pessimistic about U.N. “nation-building” motives than U.S. “occupier” motives. This, and hopefully the support from members of the Arab League, make the chances at success greater.
This, however, would not be the end of American involvement. American troops should exit populated areas but redeploy at the borders to prevent any forced foreign influence, especially from Iran. We should also make it clear that there will be no permanent military bases and still fill the role as primary financial backer of the U.N. effort and new Iraqi government.
Circumstances as they are, this plan only represents a somewhat better option, though the effectiveness of this plan is still very unpromising.