His main argument was avoiding the chaos that leaving Iraq would entail. Kevin Drum's pre-emptive rejoinder:
Israel has fought war after war in the Middle East. Result: no regional conflagration. Iran and Iraq fought one of the bloodiest wars of the second half the 20th century. Result: no regional conflagration. The Soviets fought in Afghanistan and then withdrew. No regional conflagration. The U.S. fought the Gulf War and then left. No regional conflagration. Algeria fought an internal civil war for a decade. No regional conflagration. …
It's way past time for us to start formulating a sane national security policy for an age of terror. Leaving Iraq is the first step.
But Iraq is, well, Iraq: a basketcase of a place in the best of times, with an obvious capacity for endless savagery, an ungrateful volcano that splutters lava far and wide just when you don't want or expect it. The regional war is already here anyway. Iran is already deeply invested in the Shiite parts of Iraq; and the US, by supporting and corralling and training the Sunni tribes in Anbar, is already creating a military force in Iraq to counter Iran and Maliki; the Saudis and Egyptians and other Sunni powers are busy bankrolling the resistance. I think it's possible that Crocker is right: enormous immediate violence would result from the US withdrawing from Iraq. But the current policy is to facilitate the partition of Iraq in a less violent and more protracted fashion.
The question seems to me to be therefore a simple one: is it worth American lives, billions of dollars, and an open-ended commitment to occupying the Middle East, with all that does to further Jihadist recruitment, in order to give the Iraqis a longer, milder civil war, with the same long-term result? If you compare this statement of the mission with the original concept: the creation of a unified, democratic Iraq as an ally in the war on Islamism, then you see how far we have come. Not so much mission creep, as mission-change. No one voted for this; and I certainly don't believe it's vital to national security to pick one path toward Iraq's disintegration over another. Wouldn't it be better to get it over with quickly? Given limited military resources, is it really in our interest to tie so much of our military power in a quicksand that, at the peak of the surge, is merely not dragging us down even faster?
(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty.)
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