Leaving Iraq: What to Do?


On July 8, the editors of the New York Times joined the chorus of Iraq leavers in a very long editorial. It was a reasonable job, yet it left many things to be desired. First, it ignored the growing evidence from Anbar and neighboring provinces that we can work with local Sunni militia in our efforts to defeat the extremists. This is the most promising opening in several years. It would surely close were these Sunnis to learn that American withdrawal were imminent.


I assume part of the reason for this omission is the general assumption that success in Iraq rides of the shoulders of the Shi’a majority. This ignores the very real probability that the Sunni will once again lead the country, a hope that the Sunni resistance certainly clings to. As I have pointed out before in these blogs, minorities frequent lead countries, often for centuries. The role of the Tutsi in Rwanda and Burundi is a well-known example. This suggests that developing alliances with Sunni movements in the west and north of the country may be more fruitful than it appears at first.


Of course, one of the problems with getting out of any situation, is that if one stayed just a little longer, it might turn around. There are always indications that “things are about to change”. Yet it is always possible that in this instance, they are.


Second, although the editorial advocates negotiations with neighboring states, it does this in a decidedly American-centered, imperialist manner. The editors write that we should negotiate with neighboring states “to avoid excessive meddling in Iraq”. The editors seem to forget that we do not own Iraq. We are not the people who will have to live alongside the results of America’s “excessive meddling” for the next generation. We would lay a much firmer basis for our withdrawal, were we to include neighbors more positively in our plans, eliciting their ideas as to how we should withdraw and what they could do to help.


Iraq should have taught us the “doing things our way” can be disastrous. Let us try a new approach.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Blogroll, Iraq War

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