...what if there is no such thing as a “responsible exit” from Iraq? This is the view of Stephen Biddle, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who spent the spring in Iraq, as part of a strategic-assessment team of military and civilian experts. He said, “When you look at the spectrum of policy approaches in Iraq right now, the extremes”—maintaining the largest force possible or pulling out immediately—“make more sense than the middle.” The “middle-ground policies,” he argued, “tend to dramatically reduce our ability to control the environment militarily, because they all involve withdrawing about half of the troops. It’s our combat activity that’s currently capping violence around the country, and almost everybody would cut that out—which means the violence is only going to increase. And yet they leave tens of thousands of Americans in the country, to act as targets. Continued U.S. casualties, continued deterioration of the situation all around them: within two or three years, that’s going to generate powerful pressure to go all the way to the zero option. Why not do it sooner, and save the seven to eight hundred lives you’re going to lose to walk through this drill in the meantime?”The middle-of-the-road strategy, of course, is just what we're most likely to get. I can well see that a botched gradual draw down of our troops will lead to a prolonged deteriorating security situation, stretching well into the next administration, and leading ultimately to a Vietnam-style evacuation. Biddle is right: we're a lot better off if we leave quickly.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Planning for Defeat
George Packer's recent New Yorker piece taking a hard look at how we can get out of Iraq has been linked on many blogs already, but it's important enough to merit another. And I'd particularly like to draw attention to this passage: