In the March issue, Ted Galen Carpenter makes a strong case for why we should “Reject False Prophets” who have led us into war in Iraq (View).  He lays it all out starkly and succinctly: “Iraq has never come close to being a war for America’s survival.  Even the connection of the Iraq mission to the larger war against Islamic terrorism was always tenuous, at best.”  Again, “Saddam Hussein was a secular tyrant, not an Islamic radical.”  And “Iraq was an elective war—a war of choice . . . It is well past time to demand that the hawks be specific about their strategy.”  I agree.

When the true believers insist that “we can win” this war, the immediate response that springs to my mind is, “Define win.”  What is the objective, and how do we know when we’ve met it?  Why should we want to referee a fight between Sunni and Shiite?

Adopting a child is a big responsibility.  Once you do it, your life is not your own in the same way that it was previously.  Why should we want to adopt Iraq?  We as a nation have a life of our own to live, and that does not leave room for wet-nursing this unwanted offspring.

And we have a war against militant Muslims to fight—a real war, which we should be fighting in Afghanistan, in Waziristan, against madrassas and terrorist training camps.

I’m not against that war—we have it, whether we want it or not.  But we have done all we can do in Iraq.  From now on, we have to let them sort out their problems among themselves.  We could withdraw our troops to the Kurdish region and protect them: They’re the only ones who want us there, anyway.  However, the present blank check we are giving to Iraq, which forces our soldiers (male and female) to be little more than sitting ducks, must be withdrawn.

        —Larry Eubank
Bloomington, IN

Dr. Carpenter Replies:

Mr. Eubank makes a number of valid points.  He is especially correct that we need to redirect our military focus to Afghanistan and western Pakistan, which are still the principal safe havens for Al Qaeda and its Taliban allies.  As I pointed out in the August 2006 issue of Chronicles, the security environment in Afghanistan is becoming almost as dire as it is in Iraq.  If the Bush administration is not careful, it will soon be credited with two failed wars on its watch.

Mr. Eubank is also correct that we have done as much as we can reasonably be expected to do in Iraq.  The United States removed Iraq’s long-standing dictator, supervised the creation of a new constitution, presided over the election of a new government, and trained new military and police forces.  It should now be squarely up to the Iraqis to decide whether they want to live together in one country, making the political compromises necessary for such coexistence to take place, or whether they are going to let their simmering civil war become a full-scale bloodbath.  If they opt for the latter, there is little we can do to stop it short of occupying the country with a very large force (at least 400,000 to 500,000 troops) for decades.  No rational American would choose to have our country bear such a burden.

I do disagree with Mr. Eubank about the wisdom of maintaining a troop presence in the Kurdish region (really, the de facto independent republic of Kurdistan).  Although that would be safer than continuing to patrol such garden spots as Baghdad and Fallujah, it could still result in undesirable entanglements for the United States.  Kurdistan’s relations with the rest of Iraq are problematic, at best (especially given the unresolved status of Kirkuk and its oil riches), and its relations with Turkey, Iran, and Syria could be turbulent as well.  The United States should have no desire to be caught in the middle of such quarrels.  America needs to get out of Iraq—and that means all of Iraq, including Kurdistan.