The options presented in this week’s reading regarding the options for continued U.S action in Iraq all have valid points. However, even the panelists seem to agree that none of their solutions are perfect. There are no options without downsides. A combination of some of the panelists’ ideas may be useful.
First, the idea of dividing Iraq into federalist states, as suggested by Gelb and enhanced by Diamond, is intriguing. One of the most significant benefits of such an action would be the possibility that each ethnic group would have (eventually) clearly defined and democratically elected government representatives. This would greatly enhance the ability to negotiate diplomatically among the groups rather than militarily.
Second, Christopher Hitchens proposes briefly the idea of having the Iraqis utilize their newfound democracy to determine what should be done. It seems only logical that before the U.S. decides to take any nationally defining actions, the decision should be put to the people, especially in light of the long term goal of promoting democracy. To combine this with the idea in the previous paragraph, my suggestion is to first provide Iraqis with the opportunity to decide whether to divide the nation into federalist states based on ethnic background. I’m not sure the Iraqis would choose to be divided. It would require a clear and reliable description of the benefits to each group. Assuming the Iraqis agreed, diplomatic negotiations would be much more readily available to work out the necessary compromises on oil revenues, etc.
There is one other point I’d like to make about the forums. There seems to be somewhat of a consensus that some form of withdrawal may be the “least-bad” of all the options. This may not be so. One historical reference the participants do not bring up is another “regime change” the U.S. initiated in the Middle East – the overthrow of the Shah in Iran. Leaving Iraq in a state of disaster with very little hope of becoming a viable nation would be what the Iraqis and many other Muslims would remember as their generation’s impression of the U.S., just as the Iranians saw their plight as the result of U.S. meddling. Would it not be better to at least attempt a resolution? The weakness in this argument is that, perhaps, no matter what the U.S. does at this point, it will be interpreted negatively by the Iraqis. I’m interested in the rest of the bloggers’ thoughts on this analogy.