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Baker Hamilton
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Iraq, Past wars
Mario Cuomo
Jalexson Iraq
Sunday, 19 August 2007
Withdrawal No Option
Topic: Iraq, Past wars

Those who think the United States can withdraw from Iraq with no risk to our troops aren't living in the real world.  On a playground someone who doesn't want to play any more can use his hands to make the letter "T", call "time out" and say he wants to go home.  Iraq isn't a playground.  It's a combat zone and withdrawing  from a combat zone is difficult to do without getting killed.

The first to leave might get out safely, but the last ones would have little hope.  General Douglas MacArthur was able to withdraw only a portion of his force from the Phillipines during World War II safely.  The ones left behind were captured by the Japanese.  Those who survived the Bataan Death March were badly treated in the Japanese prison camp.

The Americans who would be left behind in Iraq wouldn't end up in a prison camp, but would be tortured and killed if captured alive by al Qaeda.  An organization that will fly airliners into office buildings isn't going to just let our soldiers leave without trying to kill as many as possible.  

Soldiers have trouble defending themselves when they are moving away from the battle.  Artillery pieces cannot be moved and fired at the same time, particularly when the artillery shells are loaded in trucks.  An enemy will take advantage of the vulnerability of a retreating army and attack without having to worry about a counterattack.  Even our army would attack a retreating enemy that hadn't first surrendered.  

Leaving a battlefield safely can only be done in three basic ways:

1. Defeat the enemy like the U.S. did in World War II; partial withdrawal can occur as the enemy is weakened as happened in Vietnam and in Europe late in WWII;
2. The army can be replaced by another army as occurred in Vietnam when South Vietnamese forces gradually took over from American forces.  This process is occurring in Iraq, but very slowly.

3. Negotiate with the enemy, including surrendering to the enemy.  World War I ended with negotiations.  The final American forces left Vietnam after the U.S. negotiated a settement with the enemy that resulted in a victoy because our ally  was recognized as the government of South Vietnam - the primary U.S. goal in the Vietnam War.  

In the short run a partial withdrawal of American forces cannot be done without  high risk to those remaining until al Qaeda has been further weakened.   A withdrawal without weakening al Qaeda would allow al Qaeda to claim it is winning the war which could increase its ability to recruit new soldiers by a factor of 10 to 100.

American forces currently have only two options, complete withdrawal or no withdrawal.  Complete withdrawal would only be practical by going north. The Kurds might be able to protect withdrawing American forces leaving through  their territory, but would probably need for us to give them our tanks, artillery and possibly some of our aircraft to do so.  The U.S. might also have to sign a treaty with the Kurds stating that in case of a war between the Kurds and American NATO ally Turkey that the U.S. would not attack the Kurds.

The Kurds are the only Iraqi group that might capable of governing themselves.   A functional Iraqi government isn't currently practical.  

Neither Americans nor Iraqis understand the damage Saddam Hussein did to the Iraqi people.  Iraqis lack experience in operating a government, especially in working with members of  other ethnic groups.  Hussein attempted to eliminate anyone who might pose a threat to his leadership, including killing his own generals if he thought them capable of conducting a successful coup.  

Our own founding fathers needed two attempts to set up a successful national government and they had experience with limited self government before the American Revolution.

I realize many Americans support the Ted Kennedy approach to such matters.  You remember Kennedy.  He drove off a bridge and then went home and left his passenger to drown.

As  Secretary of State Colin Powell told President George W. Bush the "pottery barn" rule applies -- "you break it you buy it." We have a responsibility to help the Iraqis develop their own govenment without interference from al Qaeda.  We shouldn't leave them to drown because just because some compassionless politicians don't care.

They didn't ask us to eliminate the tyrant Saddam Hussein.  We are the ones who drove the car off the bridge and we should help them get out.



Posted by reasonmclucus at 12:01 AM CDT
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