2005 June 19 Sunday
Iraq Withdrawal Debate Reaches Mainstream

John Burns of the New York Times reports senior US officers see rising pressures for withdrawal from Iraq.

But whether there are too many American soldiers or too few, a feeling is growing among senior officers in Baghdad and Washington that it is only a matter of time before the Pentagon sets a timetable of its own for withdrawal. These officers point to the effect on American public opinion of the slow disintegration of the 30-nation military coalition that America leads, and to frustration on Capitol Hill with the faltering buildup of Iraqi forces. These officers also cite the recruiting slump and fear the risk is growing that the war, like Vietnam, will do lasting damage to the Army and the Marines.

"I think the drawdown will occur next year, whether the Iraqi security forces are ready or not," a senior Marine officer in Washington said last week. "Look for covering phrases like 'We need to start letting the Iraqis stand on their own feet, and that isn't going to happen until we start drawing down'. "

Here's the part that interests me: When the US withdrawal begins what will the Kurds do? The Kurds might see advantage in allying with the Sunnis in order to prevent the more numerous Shia from establishing complete control. The Kurds could tell the Sunnis that they'll fight alongside the Sunnis in exchange for Sunni acceptance of Kurish autonomy or outright Kurdish secession and independence.

Right now the US military and the Kurds are buddy-buddy. But once the US withdrawal begins in earnest the interests of the Kurds will strongly diverge from those of Washington. Also, once the withdrawal begins expect to see many politicians to take to the field of battle with their own private militias. Military supplies and soldiers from the Iraqi Army trained by US and British soldiers may join up with various private militias and the Iraqi Army may crumble as the country plunges into full scale civil war..

George W. Bush claims that withdrawal from Iraq is not an option.

In Washington, President Bush said Saturday that pulling out of Iraq now is not an option, rejecting calls by some lawmakers and polls indicating that many Americans are growing weary of the war.

"The terrorists and insurgents are trying to get us to retreat. Their goal is to get us to leave before Iraqis have had a chance to show the region what a government that is elected and truly accountable to its citizens can do for its people," Bush said in his weekly radio address.

"We will settle for nothing less than victory" over terrorists there, he said later.

With Bush's approval ratings hitting new lows and the popularity of the war declining as well even some Republican hawks in Congress have begun calling for timetable to withdraw from Iraq.

While the partisan shots from Democrats were to be expected, Bush also drew criticism from several Republicans, suggesting that opposition to the war extended beyond his traditional opponents.

Rep. Walter Jones, a conservative Republican from North Carolina, whose anger at the French for opposing the war two years ago led him to demand that the House cafeterias to rename its French fries as "freedom fries,'' was among those who publicly called on Bush to produce an exit strategy.

Jones wants the withdrawal to begin by October 2006. Not coincidentally all members of the House of Representative will be up for reelection in November 2006. Congresscritters are worried about reelection as polls show support for the war has become the minority view.

WASHINGTON — Nearly six in 10 Americans say the United States should withdraw some or all of its troops from Iraq, a new Gallup Poll finds, the most downbeat view of the war since it began in 2003.


The poll is consistent with other recent surveys that show growing concern about the war. In an ABC News-Washington Post poll last week, two-thirds said the U.S. military was bogged down in Iraq, and nearly three-quarters called the casualty level unacceptable.

I bet a lot of officers in the US Army are thinking they can't believe the US military is left fighting another unpopular war.

One Republican Senator thinks "the White House is completely disconnected from reality."

Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel is angry. He's upset about the more than 1,700 U.S. soldiers killed and nearly 13,000 wounded in Iraq. He's also aggravated by the continued string of sunny assessments from the Bush administration, such as Vice President Dick Cheney's recent remark that the insurgency is in its "last throes." "Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality," Hagel tells U.S. News. "It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq."

Bush claims "the world's terrorists have now made Iraq a central front in the war on terror".

''Some may disagree with my decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, but all of us can agree that the world's terrorists have now made Iraq a central front in the war on terror,'' he said. ''This mission isn't easy, and it will not be accomplished overnight.''

The jihadist entered Iraq because US soldiers are there. If the United States hadn't invaded Iraq the jihadists wouldn't be flowing in as they are now. My guess is that most of the jihadists showing up to fight in Iraq never would have made it to the West to attack "infidels" if they hadn't gone to Iraq. They would have had a hard time getting visas, affording longer flights, or paying for places to live once they arrived in the West. Those who would have gone to the West would have been more likely to end up in Europe than in America.

When we leave we will be leaving Iraqis with a more dangerous and repressive society.

The hall's manager, Bassam Manuel, said his parties are not what they used to be in Saddam Hussein's era, when the streets were more secure.

"Before the war, the parties used to start at 9 in the evening and end at 2 in the morning," Manuel said. "Now the parties start at 3 in the afternoon and end at 8. Alcoholic drinks are forbidden - we don't want any trouble."


Abdul Salam, a 38-year-old unemployed Shiite Muslim, had long dreamt of hiring Fouad Salem, a popular singer, to perform at his wedding party.

In the end, a lack of money prevented that. Followers of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who control the area, forbid music in the district, claiming singing is the voice of Satan.

But will we be leaving them with a civil war? I think so. How will the civil war turn out? Theocracy? A break up of Iraq into 2 or 3 countries? Don't know.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 June 19 07:24 PM  Mideast Iraq Exit Debate

Zhang Fei said at June 19, 2005 10:41 PM:

Article: Rep. Walter Jones, a conservative Republican from North Carolina, whose anger at the French for opposing the war two years ago led him to demand that the House cafeterias to rename its French fries as "freedom fries,'' was among those who publicly called on Bush to produce an exit strategy.

Walter Jones isn't a conservative Republican. OK - he's conservative compared to the media. But as Republicans go, he's not a conservative - his ADA rating is in the 30's, just like McCain. There are *Democrats* in his state who are more conservative than he is. Mostly, he's not so much conservative or liberal as he is a clown. How can anyone take a guy who came up with the phrase Freedom Fries seriously?

Randall Parker said at June 19, 2005 11:56 PM:

Zhang Fei/Robert Rosenthal,

Walter Jones as an American Conservative Union lifetime rating score of 94. John McCain's ACU lifetime score is 83.

Agreed about the absurdity of freedom fries though.

Braddock said at June 20, 2005 6:27 AM:

The arab world is corrupted by the jihadi meme and the fantasy of a worldwide caliphate under the control of arab muslims. It is a psychotic idea that has the potential to destroy civilization, but it is a very potent idea among arabs.

The discussion of pullout timetables is a good idea. The military brass needs to get used to the idea that this will not be an open-ended commitment. The Iraqis have to understand that if they want to join the civilized world they have to take responsibility for their own future. Can they resist the insane jihadi meme?

Pearsall said at June 20, 2005 9:13 AM:

But will we be leaving them with a civil war? I think so. How will the civil war turn out? Theocracy? A break up of Iraq into 2 or 3 countries? Don't know.

Collounsbury had some thoughts on this issue. His verdict? Lebanon redux:

Arab Shias and Sunnis both have shared and continue to share a common Arab centered nationalism - except of course in re who should be in charge. Iraq itself is not in play in the intra-Arab game, it's who controls Iraq. The only ethnic group in Iraq that actively puts Iraq as an entity in play is the Kurds (the largely Shia Turcomans being too small have not opted for seperatism).

The scenario is not then an imminent break up of Iraq but civil war pure and simple, with four zones. (i) Kurdistan in the north, with a long fractured frontier; (ii) Baghdad central, multi-ethnic and ending up like Beruit, a killing zone, (iii) Sunni majority West-Central, homeland of the Sunni jihadis and others; (iv) the south starting some 60-100 k south of Baghdad down to Umm al-Qasr, safely majority Shia but subject to intra-Shia conflict.

The Iraqi Arabs are not going to accept de jure seperation, de facto may come from civil war.

Nick said at June 20, 2005 1:32 PM:

"..it is only a matter of time before the Pentagon sets a timetable of its own for withdrawal."

Wow. The Pentagon is staging a mutiny? What happended to civilian control of the Armed Services? Sounds like South America!

Lurker said at June 20, 2005 7:26 PM:

The American public certainly doesn't like 1,700 US war dead, plus many more wounded. However, the American public likes the prospect of 4+ dollar/gal. gasoline even less. There will be no withdrawl anytime soon. Dubya didn't listen to anyone's advice except his inner circle in the buildup to invasion...why would he start now.

Dan Morgan said at June 20, 2005 7:47 PM:

I don't see it so pessimistically. I think what will happen is that we begin withdrawing troops but leave say 30,000 behind on fortified bases. We will stop doing as much dangerous patrol work to keep American casualties down; that will be left to Iraqis. But we will support any key fight that might give the Iraqis some trouble. This way we retain some leverage with the central authorities in Iraq. I think one of the conditions for our support will be that a bunch of militias are not allowed to pop up.

Now if we pulled out totally, or stopped fighting totally, I agree that civil war might occur. But as long as we have a strong presence I think that the central government will hold together and a rough form of democracy will also be present.

Randall Parker said at June 21, 2005 8:22 AM:

Dan Morgan,

30,000 US troops will not be enough to prevent different militias from taking over different towns and cities. 130,000 is not enough to prevent that.

If we retain leverage over the "central" government in Baghdad but that government loses control over half the country then what good will our leverage be?

Dan Morgan said at June 21, 2005 8:50 PM:


30,000 US troops may not be enough to prevent different militias from taking over different towns and cities, but the Iraq government will have far more troops. As long as we continue to train them, and they continue to improve and grow in numbers, they should be able to get the job done. They will have oil money to pay troops and police salaries. And they will know that in any tough fight they will have US back-up. This should help the confidence of the central authorities when dealing with challenges from insurgents and new militias.

For it all to work out, the Kurds can have the only tolerated militia. This must be tolerated because their defenses pre-existed our invasion. So this is just a reality that must be accepted for the next 5 years or so. And besides, they have been an effective security force.

And I don't see any reason why the US should encourage militias. El Salvador-style militias would undermine our goal of spreading western ideas in the middle east. If we get so desperate that this is what is required, then we should just pull out right now.

Stephen said at June 21, 2005 10:42 PM:

Based on this extract from the current Baghdad Burning blog entry, it looks like the Iraqi's don't believe the occupation is going to end any time soon:

What people find particularly frustrating is the fact that while Baghdad seems to be falling apart in so many ways with roads broken and pitted, buildings blasted and burnt out and residential areas often swimming in sewage, the Green Zone is flourishing. The walls surrounding restricted areas housing Americans and Puppets have gotten higher- as if vying with the tallest of date palms for height. The concrete reinforcements and road blocks designed to slow and impede traffic are now a part of everyday scenery- the road, the trees, the shops, the earth, the sky… and the ugly concrete slabs sometimes wound insidiously with barbed wire.
The price of building materials has gone up unbelievably, in spite of the fact that major reconstruction has not yet begun. I assumed it was because so much of the concrete and other building materials was going to reinforce the restricted areas. A friend who recently got involved working with an Iraqi subcontractor who takes projects inside of the Green Zone explained that it was more than that. The Green Zone, he told us, is a city in itself. He came back awed, and more than a little bit upset. He talked of designs and plans being made for everything from the future US Embassy and the housing complex that will surround it, to restaurants, shops, fitness centers, gasoline stations, constant electricity and water- a virtual country inside of a country with its own rules, regulations and government. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Republic of the Green Zone, also known as the Green Republic.

Bob Badour said at June 22, 2005 7:49 AM:

Dan, I don't see how your hand-waving has any connection to objective reality.

The Iraqi experience thus far shows that the Iraqis scatter and let the Americans at their back do all the work. The Iraqis need to learn that the US is not at their back and to fight for themselves. As Randall has pointed out so many times, in Iraq "fight for themselves" means fight for one's own clan -- not for Iraq.

Dan Morgan said at June 22, 2005 11:43 AM:


What I am saying is that 5 years from now we will have a smaller yet still significant number of troops in Iraq. Iraqis will have to handle most situations themselves. We are there for backup, logistical support, and intel support. And I don't believe that we will allow militias to propagate.

I don't see how this has no "connection to objective reality". That is just my prediction of how it will play out, and this is within the reasonable range of possiblities.

Note: I understand the argument that Randall (and Steve Sailer) make that the clan nature of Iraq could doom the whole undertaking. I respect this position and in fact consider this insight important and worrisome. So if it all unravels in Iraq and ends in failure, this clan problem will likely be a big part of this.

Bob Badour said at June 22, 2005 4:54 PM:


I don't see how it is within the reasonable range of possibilities. Within the range of possibilities, sure, but reasonable? That's where I part company.

All evidence thus far points to the US failing to train any competent and reliable Iraqi troops. At least not outside the Kurds.

They've been at it now for a couple years without any success. How does that present reality connect to a future reality (even five years away) with large numbers of competent and reliable Iraqi troops?

Bob Badour said at June 22, 2005 4:56 PM:

(Perhaps I should have phrased that last bit as "large numbers of competent and reliable Iraqi troops fighting FOR a united, democratic Iraq.")

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