The Iraqi View

I was talking to someone about this last night, but not making my point very clearly. Fortunately, we have Nick Kristof:

First, a poll this spring of Iraqis — who know their country much better than we do — shows that only 21 percent think that the U.S. troop presence improves security in Iraq, while 69 percent think it is making security worse. . . .

We simply can’t want to be in Iraq more than the Iraqis want us to be there. That poll of Iraqis, conducted by the BBC and other news organizations, found that only 22 percent of Iraqis support the presence of coalition troops in Iraq, down from 32 percent in 2005.

If Iraqis were pleading with us to stay and quell the violence, maybe we would have a moral responsibility to stay. But when Iraqis are begging us to leave, and saying that we are making things worse, then it’s remarkably presumptuous to overrule their wishes and stay indefinitely because, as President Bush termed it in his speech on Tuesday, “it is necessary work.”

Right. Now it is true that the Iraqi government takes a different view. On the other hand, this isn't a passing whim of Iraqi public opinion -- it's been consistently expressed fro years. It's not clear, by contrast, who the Iraqi government represents. The government is the product of post-election negotiations between leaders of parliamentary factions that were elected on the basis of a strict party list formula. What's more, the political coalition led by incumbent prime minister Ibrahim al-Jafari actually won the election only to see Jafari dumped as a result of, among other things, intense American pressure.

On top of all that, it's worth being clear that Iraqis aren't merely expressing an abstract preference for our forces to leave. Iraqis say they approve of attacks on American soldiers serving in Iraq. Under those circumstances, it's obviously going to be challenging -- as in impossible -- for American soldiers to effectively provide security.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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