A reader writes:
Your reader is right, we do owe it to Iraq to fix what our elected leaders have broken. As Bush et al like to point out, however, only the executive branch can execute the war. Since the only available commander-in-chief has proven himself radically incompetent, unaccountable, and prone to dubious military engagements, we have little reason to believe that we can expiate our obligations to the Iraqis by allowing the White House to be even more profligate with our collective blood and honor.
It is possible to incur a debt one cannot repay, and I fear that is what we have done. I hope - though I by no means assume - that if our next president is both very clever and has a strong sense of honor he or she will find a way to make good. In the meantime I doubt it will help to leave that future president an exhausted, demoralized military with which to work.
Yes, this is the problem. Even if we were convinced that we should stay in Iraq to prevent genocide, how can we morally keep entrusting the troops to Bush and Cheney? And how, with Bush and Cheney in charge, can we know they won't continue to make the same appalling mistakes they have made so far? Bush himself has said he disapproved of his own war-management last fall. One might ask if he won't say the same about his war management today a year from now? I'm afraid Petraeus is not an answer. He's a good and decent general; but he cannot perform miracles, or defy reality. The reality is: Iraq no longer exists. Right now, we're asking young Americans to die to keep Bill Kristol's grand political narrative from being one notch less than absurd. I'm not sure that's a good idea. Another reader writes:
Nice piece by the anti-war liberal who rightly is concerned at the moral implications of withdrawal. But he had a more cogent point when he noted there was a reason Saddam was so brutal that he had to be to keep a lid on all the centuries of brewing tension. And that’s the problem with staying…we can only bring peace to a unified Iraq by imposing draconian measures on the country, a la Saddam, or by picking a new Saddam and sticking around long enough for him to do so. I don't think it would be moral to do so. Nor do we have the stomach for it. I fear the only outcome that offers a prayer of bringing the violence to a relatively quick end is to partition the country - Kurd, Shia and Sunni - and stick around long enough for each group to get out of the other's territory.
Soft-partition via withdrawal. It may be the best we can do. And it could be leveraged against Iran's leadership.