It’s easy to criticize US policy in Iraq. Even the president has expressed disappointment with the lack of political reconciliation and security enhancement, and the chorus of war critics is as clamorous as ever. But merely pointing out policy flaws—especially obvious ones—is unhelpful, unless one is advocating viable alternatives.
One popular alternative: skedaddle. But this is not a strategy; it’s a reaction. Those who advocate pullout need also to demonstrate how steadily drawing-down forces in Iraq, irrespective of events on the ground, is the best policy option for the US. True, it would bring many US troops out of harm’s way and decrease expenditures, but what would be the larger ramifications? How would US interests in the region be affected? What balance of power shifts might occur? Those who assert—correctly—that US war planning pre-invasion gave inadequate attention to future scenarios should also consider what consequences a precipitate withdrawal might produce.
Some war critics cite declining Iraqi optimism—documented in a recent BBC pool—as proof of US failure and an argument for pullout. But the poll shows also that security is still the number one concern for Iraqis. Those who advocate withdrawal out of sensitivity to Iraqi opinion should explain how this policy would address Iraqis’ primary misgiving. The BBC poll shows also that over 50 percent of Iraqis wish the US to remain until security is improved.
Merely hollering that the light bulb has burnt out does not fix the light. Of course, if you’re the US you can just walk out of the room. But those who are staying behind don’t like the dark either and would probably prefer that you replace the bulb rather than just complain that it doesn’t work. Some intent thinking on enhancing US war policy--not merely carping--is in order.
Endnote: to those who assert—correctly—that this blogger has ignored his own advice and failed to present a viable alternative policy, it shall come in a future posting.