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What Would Really Happen if the U.S. Withdrew from Iraq?

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The interesting thing about conventional wisdom is that it is almost always wrong. In fact, it's an oxymoron. If ideas or opinions are conventional, they represent the status quo or the majority view, which are always a step behind the changing times or latest information. "For chrissake, Columbus, we all know the world is flat!"

So if you're looking for wisdom, look elsewhere; don't look to the same so-called authorities (or their protégés) who brought you the Vietnam War, the debacle in Central America, and the disaster in Iraq. That said, let's examine the fallacy of each premise espoused by today's leading lunkheads about what will happen if we withdraw our troops from Iraq.

Iraq Will Descend into Chaos

If the deaths of hundreds of thousands of citizens, the creation of over two million Iraqi refugees, and the miserable day-to-day existence of suicide bombings, mass unemployment and a collapsed infrastructure are not evidence of a country in chaos, I'd like to know what is.

But it could get even worse! So say those espousing conventional wisdom. Perhaps. But it could also get a lot better. Bear in mind, most Iraqis want America out of Iraq. So if we withdraw all our troops within a six-month time frame, bring in the United Nations, and organize a summit of all of Iraq's neighbors, including Iran, to put together a peace strategy, the situation would more than likely get better rather than worse.

As a precedent for this, look at what happened in Central America in the 1980s when El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua were all engaged in civil wars. For years the Reagan administration turned a blind eye to the right-wing death squads in each country, trained and funded the Contras in Nicaragua, and supported armed conflict in the region in general, ostensibly to prevent the "godless communists" from taking over Central America. As a result, hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children were slaughtered, including many priests and nuns.

Finally, after years of bloody conflict, and with no chance of a military solution in sight, Congress passed the Boland Amendment, and the Reagan administration grudgingly withdrew its support of the Contras and other warring factions in Central America. At least they pretended to. (See the Iran-Contra Affair for more details on how the right-wing forerunners of the neocons screwed this one up, and how Daddy Bush pardoned all the culprits, including Elliot Abrams, who still works for Junior.)

In the meantime, Oscar Arias, the president of Costa Rica, promoted a peace plan in the region (Esquipulas Peace Agreement) that eventually ended the conflicts and won Arias the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987. The same type of strategy could be used in Iraq.

But let's say a peace initiative like this didn't work and the chaos in Iraq got even worse. Let's say the conventional wisdom is right and--

The Chaos in Iraq Will Lead to Regional Conflict

Following this logic, the conflict spreads. Iran backs the Shiites with money, arms, and perhaps soldiers. Saudi Arabia follows suit and does the same with the Sunnis. The Turks and the Kurds get nervous and start attacking each other. And Al Qaeda? If the Americans are gone, whom do they attack? Sunnis? Not likely. Shiites? Even less likely. Kurds? No reason to. So what happens to Al Qaeda in an all-out Middle East conflict where one Islamic sect and/or country is attacking another? Do they choose sides or pull up stakes and find a new game?

The truth is, without the U.S. in Iraq, Al Qaeda will lose its raison d'etre in that country. Will they "follow us home" as the leading lunkhead of conventional wisdom has said? Let's pretend we have half a brain: If Al Qaeda had the wherewithal to attack us at home, they already would have done so. No, the reason they attack us in Iraq is because we're there. We're easy targets. Once we're gone, they may score a few PR points by saying they chased America out of Iraq, but the truth is, they're left with nothing but a bleak, war-torn environment occupied by hostile Iraqi soldiers and battle-hardened Sunni and Shiite insurgents, some of whom despise them.

But what about the rest of Iraq's Islamic neighbors, such as Syria, Jordan, or Lebanon? Won't they join the fight? Doubtful. Do you really think they want to choose sides with either Iran or Saudi Arabia, broaden the conflict, and destroy their own countries? More than likely, they will do everything they can to promote peace. But even if they are dumb enough to get involved, how does that hurt the United States or Israel? It doesn't. It only hurts the Islamic countries involved in the war. Which is why they will do everything they can to make peace. After all, do you think all these Islamic countries will continue to slaughter each other while the United States and Israel stand on the sidelines and crack "dumb Muslim jokes!"

But let's say they don't care. Let's say they continue to kill each other and blow up their respective countries. Let's say the conventional wisdom is right and--

The Regional Conflict Will Hurt Our Interests in the Middle East

Now we come down to the real reason the Bush administration and the espousers of conventional wisdom don't want the government to withdraw U.S. troops from the Middle East: because it will hurt our interests.

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John F. Miglio is the former editor of the Online Review of Books & Current Affairs and author of Sunshine Assassins, a dystopian political thriller.

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