The longer Democratic presidential candidates go on vaguely (and falsely) promising “withdrawal,” the greater is the risk that Israel, (or Bush himself) will make a preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. Israel did this to Iraq in 1981. Why wouldn't it do so to Iran while our troops are in the area in surge strength? Thus, the clock counts down maybe only until next summer. Such a strike is likely to lead to stepped up Iranian infiltration into Iraq, trapping our troops in a wider and endless war. Moronic jingoistic sentiment that “These colors don't run” will preclude any other response. Already there have been calls for hot pursuit from Afghanistan into Pakistan and threats of striking Iran. When Napoleon invaded a vast, backward area with difficult terrain and weather, in June 1812, he entered with about 425,000 men but only about 10,000 were left to recross the Neimen River the next winter. Hitler sent a comprehensive military force of 3 million soldiers, tankers, artillerymen and air power into the same vast, backward area. By the time its remnant in Moscow surrendered, General Paulus had only about 100,000 operational forces left. And the capture of American airmen or hostage taking of Americans into the vast wilds of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan would be a political nightmare for any U.S. president. It would pressure him or her to make further attacks that could break not just our volunteer army, but strain our air force, severely deplete our national wealth and lead our Asian creditors to dump our debt. Bin Laden would love it.
Some measures to pull back from the brink in Iraq have been in public discussion for months (Biden, Iraq Study Group, McGovern.) “Soft partition” would mean that U.S. troops, while withdrawing from Iraq's cities, would escort only willing Iraqis to resettle to zones of others of the same sect. What is now happening is hard partition by ethnic cleansing. Under soft partition Iraqis unwilling to move would assume the risk of fighting or making peace. Assumption of risk is a principle of freedom of choice. Door-kickin'-in forcible occupation is a principle of imperialism. Baghdad can be partitioned along the Tigris. We could give the Green Zone goes to Sunni's moving from east to west Baghdad. A new president could make a gift of Bush's arrogant $1.5 billion embassy to the Iraqis. Make it a hospital and war memorial. It's not worth one more American or Iraqi life. The Kurds have their own government. The Sunnis are out of Maliki's government. So a new President could offer Maliki's government the choice to stay in Baghdad alone or move to a U.S. base in Shia territory where we could protect its “independence” from Iran. A dozen other countries, including Israel, South Africa and Bolivia, now have multiple capitals as a result of war and partition.
A powerful combination of influences including international energy companies, military contractors, and the Israel Lobby, fronted by neoconservatives, persuaded Bush to attack Iraq and then to grossly mismanage the occupation. Almost all of this nexus is undiminished in power. Is there a redeployment plan that could reduce casualties and expense and yet satisfy these interests? Possibly. U.S. troops could be redeployed out of cities to less populated areas along Iraq's western border to guard Iraq's oil and distribute its profits equitably. As our troops redeploy, they would escort the willing Iraqis to partition areas. The U.S. could help mixed marriage Iraqis to emigrate and open our own county to them or pay other countries to take them in and help establish them.
Along with such redeployment, the U.S. would have to help fund a non-US/UK United Nations - controlled border force of largely Muslim soldiers stationed along Iraq's borders (McGovern's concept.) On the western border, it would interpose between our troops and those of Turkey and Iran. There are several strong reasons for such U.S. redeployment. Iraq has been a battleground for much of the 20th century. Much of the savage damage to its inhabitants was done in prior times, including by Saddam Hussein. But we owe its inhabitants something for the damage we have inflicted from sanctions and since the invasion and mismanaged occupation. Only such a border force could, I think, maintain Iraq's territorial integrity as “one” federated country, allow refugee return and keep us and the Iranians apart. Without it, regional powers will probably rekindle the fires of sectarian and ethnic cleansing. And only U.S. military guardianship of Iraq's oil infrastructure for an indefinite period would induce the energy companies to make the $50 billion necessary to repair and modernize Iraq's energy industry and take Iraq's oil. Bush, et. al., so screwed up the situation that where an imperial ambition to take over Iraq's oil may not have been operative at the outset, it may now be necessary to remedy damage. A new president would need to jawbone energy companies to do this, but could offer various carrots and sticks to do so. The energy companies could have their own strategic oil reserve, storing the oil and gas for later sale at maximum profits. Meanwhile, a unit of our military, an enhanced SIGIR perhaps, could equitably distribute oil revenues to all Iraqis, even absent any national oil law. U.S. forces redeployed as suggested would remain a human trip wire containment force in the area, desired by the Israeli Lobby to protect Israel's hard line apartheid system in the hope it will someday soften up. But realistic Americans should prepare for a Euro-length or Korea-length deployment of U.S. troops (50-60 years) in the Middle East. Empires hardly ever move quickly to withdraw.
The alternative to such measures as I advocate, will, I fear, be drift toward an increasingly probable endless, wider war in the Middle East.