My brilliant plan for exiting Iraq …

Chris Toensing has an article in In These Times about all the difficulties that might arise if we were to up and get the hell out of Iraq. Toensing thinks we should pull out, but warns many bad things could happen -- to the United States, to the people of Iraq and to the region -- if we were to do so precipitously.

Bien, you've heard it before. But have you noticed how we only sweat the details on the way out?

On the way in, we say, for example, that we have to stop the Next Hitlerâ„¢ from getting the most horrifying weapons known to mankind, weapons that he'll surely use to undermine our blessed way of blah blah blah. We lay out the goal and then we let the generals work out the specifics. Stumbling in is fine but when the discussion goes to getting out of Iraq, we're suddenly micro-managers worrying about the consequences of our actions.

Nobody can really say for sure what would happen if we left Iraq tomorrow, but if we can go in as part of a grand experiment in democratization -- or whatever -- with no clue how it would turn out, why can't we get out the same way? Let's turn it around and pull out -- for a change -- and see what happens.

So here's my two-step plan for getting out of Iraq. Step one: come up with a catchy name for pulling out, something like Operation Victorious Homecoming. Step two: tell the Pentagon you want Operation Victorious Homecoming executed with maximum military efficiency and the minimum loss of life. Simple.

Ultimately, getting out of Iraq requires airplanes and ships. Everything else is conjecture, often by people with no real understanding of what's going on in the country and sometimes by the same folks who thought it would all be a grand adventure in the first place.

Ultimately, I find it hard to take this debate seriously at this point in time. There's nothing that might indicate that the Iraqis' perception of us as occupiers is going to change, or that our presence is bringing security to the Iraqi people.

The whole thing's based on a false choice: we're told that we can either abandon Iraq to its fate or maintain over 100,000 combat troops on the ground. That's nonsense; we have less influence over events on the ground than many people like to believe, and we can continue to influence things through diplomatic, economic and political engagement. If we decide we want to take sides in a civil conflict -- should it break out in our absence -- we can do so with airpower based offshore. Maintaining an army of occupation is not a normal state of affairs.

Iraqis are in the best position to judge the relative merits of a U.S. pull-out. The teaser for Toensing's piece was: "Iraqis may hate the occupation, but they fear U.S. withdrawal," and he quoted some Iraqi officials saying as much. But polls of Iraqis (PDF) show that they hate the occupation, fear U.S. withdrawal and they favor our setting a timetable for getting the hell out of Dodge anyway. They've done the cost/benefit analysis, and it's the height of arrogance to say we know the situation better than they do. That's among majorities of Kurds and Sunni and Shia Arabs.


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