Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The NIE and Iraq

Apparently, our intelligence agencies are not drinking the same Kool-Aid as the Bush administration. The national intelligence estimate has some pretty glaringly obvious conclusions about how Iraq has worsened the terrorism situation. (Though apparently the White House is refusing to release the whole document, so who knows what else is there.)

Sullivan thinks it's time to either withdraw from Iraq or "up the ante" in a major way. My opinion is that increasing the strength of our occupying forces may have been a viable option a couple years ago, but not now. Persuading the public to ramp up for a war that a solid majority of Americans oppose is not going to work. And my suspicion is that increased military presence in Iraq would exacerbate the anti-American sentiment already prevalent throughout the Muslim world.

Even if we did succeed in stabilizing Iraq, the only thing we would accomplish from a geopolitical standpoint is building up an Iran-friendly state. People say we have to "win" in Iraq or it will become a haven for terrorism. But even if we "win", the Shia government we stabilize may follow in Iran's footsteps and support groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon. Certainly any government of Iraq that had any democratic legitimacy would be anti-Israel, unless a sea-change in Arab opinion were to take place.

I don't see how we are not completely fucked in Iraq. Given that we are fucked, why stretch our already breaking military further? If it's going to be a victory for our enemies whether we "win" or "lose", why throw away more American lives? If Iraq is going to be a haven for violent anti-Americanism, let's at least save ourselves the embarrassment of attempting to build that haven. Phased withdrawal, please. And let's make sure those phases don't take too long. Of course violent jihadists will cheer and claim victory when we leave. But they will do that no matter when we leave. So unless we plan to stay in Iraq forever, let's take our lumps now and get out of there.

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