ROTTERDAM, Netherlands — There is increasing agreement among various pundits and analysts that the American and British military presence in Iraq is not making the lives of Iraqis any better, but that in fact it is making it much worse. Violence and misery is now part of the lives of many if not most ordinary Iraqis. There is also much agreement, particularly among the regulars in the mainstream media with the administration that nevertheless leaving Iraq soon is out of the question. But there are good reasons to withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible.
A quick US withdraw from Iraq will be a good first step in restoring credibility to US in the world community, something which the US needs badly. US invaded Iraq and justified a preemptive war against Saddam's regime by claiming to be after Weapons of Mass Destruction, but none were found. To sway public opinion, Congress and the international community to support the war, Americans and the world were told by the administration that the ousted Iraqi leader's regime had a large arsenal of biological and chemical weapons and links with terrorist networks, and posed an immediate threat and danger to US security. But it has now been revealed that the administration lied and exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam, that intelligence was manipulated, politicized, and misused, to justify the invasion, and that there is little evidence for the claims against Saddam's military might and capabilities.
It is the unprovoked war and invasion of Iraq based on unproven threats which above all have diminished US credibility especially in the international arena. Add to this the failure or the unwillingness of the US to bring civility and order to Iraq, to reduce the civilian deaths, and to rebuild the infrastructure, plus the documented prisoner abuse and torture cases, the Secret CIA detention centers in Eastern Europe, the transport policy known as rendition, domestic spying, the recent CIA exemption from ban on cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of prisoners, and the secrecy and lies that surround these issues, then it becomes apparent why US is facing a severe credibility problem and why it is creating mistrust among world governments and citizens.
It is acting illegally and inhumanely which makes US unpopular around the world and has diminished its influence and standing. These credibility problems will persist until US makes a shift in its policies concerning the war in Iraq and how to fight terrorism, and withdraws from Iraq as soon as possible.
A quick withdraw from Iraq is also a good idea because it would also save lives, both Iraqi lives and American lives. Many or most of the civilian deaths are caused by the overwhelming US firepower used indiscriminately. Even when they are not, US is the occupying force and responsible for security of Iraq and therefore responsible for the chaos under its watch and for creating a lawless and violent environment. The fact remains that if we want to stop killing Iraqi civilians, Iraqi women and children, to stop the needless death of American soldiers, and to stop the horrors of war, then we have to stop the war itself. The administration says that the US is duty-bound to stay in Iraq and that we have a duty to Iraqi people to bring them democracy. But if the administration really cares about Iraq and Iraqis, then why not at least be honest for once, show compassion, pull out and stop killing the Iraqis and destroying Iraq.
Those who are against a quick withdraw argue that it would make the US look weak and that any US defeat and humiliation would embolden America's enemies and bring great satisfaction to them. They claim that if US withdraws from Iraq, it would lose a tremendous amount of face in the world.
This view assumes that the only way US can show its strength is through total military victory and through subjugating and subduing other nations. It overlooks the possibility that US can also demonstrate its might by making the world safer and better in many different ways. For example, US can use its power and influence to seriously champion universal human rights, to address world poverty, to work towards a world wide nuclear disarmament, to make the United Nations more just and effective, to help establish strong international courts, or to commit to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Moreover, those who use the language of defeat and weakness are appealing to the ego, to American pride, and to an aspect of us that does not want to slow things down and look at them closely. This appeal largely works because most Americans care about their image as a tough guy in the world but it is high time for Americans to show a different kind of courage and toughness and to take responsibility and admit that this war was needless and a giant mistake. It is time for US to eat humble pie, to cut its losses, to learn from the mistakes made in Iraq, and to learn how to apply these lessons the next time a similar situation arises. Clearly, the view that we must stick to it, come what may, is unacceptable because it means that the war is going to go on indefinitely and cost many more lives and resources.
Others who oppose a quick withdraw argue that this is too risky because it may lead to an all-out civil war among Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish parts of the population over oil and territory. They claim that the current Iraqi government is very unstable and factionalized and will not be able to keep peace. But the problem with this line of argument is that it overlooks the fact that there are other options besides leaving Iraq to fend for itself. The most reasonable one is to establish through UN a multinational force made up of some non-Western and neutral nations to pick up the burden, to take over, and to keep Iraq secure and stable. Under UN auspices, an international peace and conflict-resolution commission can also be established to bring the various ethnic groups and sides together and to work out a deal on the important issues such as power sharing and security. Even if these efforts fail to fix things and bring peace and civility back to Iraq, they would still have more legitimacy than the US mandate and would probably accompany a more willingness to listen to Iraqis and a better understanding of how to go about accomplishing these difficult tasks. In this context, US can still play a major role and become a reconstruction partner instead of an occupying force and to genuinely help to rebuild Iraq.
Total military withdrawal is the reasonable thing to do, since it has now become increasingly clear that military success is very unlikely. It is time to face the facts and change our direction in Iraq and to pull out the U.S. troops. The insurgency and violence in Iraq will never be quelled as long as American troops are staying in Iraq. The circumstances now warranted a unilateral withdrawal. It is the right thing to do, the financially responsible thing to do, and what is best for US national security and restoring US reputation as a force of good in the world.