how to get out of Iraq
Below is a collection of 11 short pieces assembled by The Nation on the
question "How to Get Out of Iraq" The contributors include liberals and
progressives, and they vary in their willingness to abandon the imperial
project in Iraq, and in general. Only a few, like Chomsky, Cohen and Close,
actually acknowledge the aspects of the occupation that involve the seizure
of control and plans for ongoing domination of the Iraqi economy and its
resources, and the establishment of a permanent U.S. military presence in
Iraq. In my opinion, addressing this agenda is essential. It's an
interesting forum nonetheless.
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Web site: http://peaceworks.missouri.org
"Dissent is the highest form of patriotism" --Thomas Jefferson
How to Get Out of Iraq
by VARIOUS CONTRIBUTORS
[from the May 24, 2004 issue]
As the situation in Iraq goes from bad to worse, many Americans who opposed
the war, including Nation editors and writers, understand that the country
must find a way to extricate itself from the disaster they predicted. There
is, however, no agreement or even clarity about such an exit strategy. Nor
is any leadership on this crucial issue coming from the Bush Administration
or as yet, alas, from the presumptive Democratic candidate, Senator John
Kerry. With a sense of obligation and urgency, The Nation, has asked a range
of writers, both regular and new contributors to the magazine, for their
ideas on America's way out of Iraq. Some responded with short essays, while
others were interviewed by contributing writer Scott Sherman, who
transcribed and edited their remarks. We hope that what follows is the
beginning toward a necessary end. And we invite readers to respond; we will
publish an exchange in an upcoming issue. --The Editors
In the debate over the Iraq war, a new-minted fragment of conventional
wisdom has fixed itself in the minds of mainstream politicians and
commentators. Whether or not it was right to go to war, we are told on all
sides, the United States must now succeed in achieving its aims. In the
words of John Kerry, "Americans differ about whether and how we should have
gone to war, but it would be unthinkable now for us to retreat in disarray
and leave behind a society deep in strife and dominated by radicals." Or as
Senator Richard Lugar has said, "We are in Iraq and so we're going to have
to bring stability." Or, as Senator Joseph Biden, among so many others, has
said, as if to put an end to all discussion, "Failure is not an option."
The argument is an irritating one for those of us who opposed the war,
suggesting, as it does, that we must now sign up for the project ("stay the
course") because the very mistake we warned against was made. But the
problems are more serious than annoyance. Of course, no one wants to see
anarchy or repression in Iraq or any other country. But what can it mean to
say that failure is not an option? Has the decision to go to war exhausted
our powers of thought and will? Must we surrender now to fate? "Failure" is
in truth never an "option." The exercise of an option is a voluntary act;
but failure is forced upon you by events. It is what happens when your
options run out. To rule out failure is not a policy but a wish--and a wish,
indeed, for omnipotence. Yet no one, not even the world's sole superpower,
is omnipotent. To imagine otherwise is to set yourself up for a fall even
bigger than the failure you imagine you are ruling out.
And so decisions must still be made. It's true that we opponents of the war
cannot simply say (as we might like to do), "Please roll history back to
March of 2003, and make your disastrous war unhappen." It's also true that
when the United States overthrew the Iraqi government it took on new
responsibilities. The strongest argument for staying in Iraq is that the
United States, having taken over the country, owes its people a better
future. But acknowledgment of such a responsibility is only the beginning,
not the end, of an argument.
To meet a responsibility to someone, you must have something on offer that
they want. Certainly, the people of Iraq want electricity, running water and
other material assistance. The United States should supply it. Perhaps--it's
hard to find out--they also want democracy. But democracy cannot be shipped
to Iraq on a tanker or a C-5A. It is a homegrown construct, which must flow
from the will of the people involved. The expression of that will is, in
fact, what democracy is.
But today the United States seeks to impose a government on Iraq in the
teeth of an increasingly powerful popular opposition. The result of this
policy can be seen in the shameful attacks from the air on the cordoned-off
city of Falluja, causing hundreds of casualties. The more the United States
tries to force what it insists on calling democracy on Iraq, the more the
people of Iraq will hate the United States, and even, perhaps, the name of
democracy. There is no definition of an obligation that includes attacking
the supposed beneficiaries' cities with F-16s and AC-130 gunships.
President Bush commented recently of the Iraqis, "It's going to take a while
for them to understand what freedom is all about." Hachim Hassani, a
representative of the Iraqi Islamic Party, a leading Sunni Muslim group
represented on the so-called Governing Council, might have been answering
him when he commented to the Los Angeles Times, "The Iraqi people now equate
democracy with bloodshed."
Under these circumstances, staying the course cannot benefit Iraq. On the
contrary, each additional day that American troops continue to fight in Iraq
can only compound the eventual price of the original mistake--costing more
lives, American and Iraqi, disorganizing and pulverizing the society, and
reducing, not fostering, any chances for a better future for the country.
There are still many things that the United States can do for the people of
Iraq. Continued economic assistance is one. Another is to help international
organizations assist (but only to whatever degree is wanted by the local
people) in the transition to a new political order. But all combat
operations should cease immediately and then, on a fixed and announced
timetable, the American forces should withdraw from the country. In short,
the United States, working with others, should give Iraqis their best chance
to succeed in their own efforts to create their own future.
According to the most recent Times/CBS poll, the public, by a margin of 48
percent to 46 percent, has decided, with no encouragement from either of the
two major-party presidential candidates or from most media commentators,
that the war was a mistake. Forty-six percent have decided that the American
troops should be withdrawn. They are right. The United States should never
have invaded Iraq. Now it should leave.
The Harold Willens Peace Fellow at The Nation Institute, he is the author,
most recently, of The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will
of the People (Metropolitan).
Any "practical" approach to the situation in Iraq, any prescription for what
to do now, must start with the understanding that the present US military
occupation is morally unacceptable. Amnesty International, a year after the
invasion, reported: "Scores of unarmed people have been killed due to
excessive or unnecessary use of lethal force by coalition forces during
public demonstrations, at checkpoints and in house raids. Thousands of
people have been detained [estimates range from 8,500 to 15,000, often under
harsh conditions] and subjected to prolonged and often unacknowledged
detention. Many have been tortured or ill-treated and some have died in
custody." The prospect, if the occupation continues, whether by the United
States or by an international force (as John Kerry seems to be proposing),
is of continued suffering and death for both Iraqis and Americans.
The history of military occupations of Third World countries is that they
bring neither democracy nor security. The laments that "we mustn't cut and
run," "we must stay the course," our "reputation" will be imperiled, etc.,
are exactly what we heard when at the start of the Vietnam escalation some
of us called for immediate withdrawal. The result of staying the course was
58,000 Americans and several million Vietnamese dead.
The only rational argument for continuing on the present course is that
things will be worse if we leave. In Vietnam, they promised a bloodbath if
we left. That did not happen. It was said that if we did not drop the bomb
on Hiroshima, we would have to invade Japan and huge casualties would
follow. We know now and knew then that this was not true. The truth is, no
one knows what will happen if the United States withdraws. We face a choice
between the certainty of mayhem if we stay, and the uncertainty of what will
follow if we leave.
What would be a reasonably good scenario to accompany our departure? The UN
should arrange, as US forces leave, for an international group of
peacekeepers and negotiators from the Arab countries to bring together
Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, and work out a solution for self-governance that
would give all three groups a share in political power. Simultaneously, the
UN should arrange for shipments of food and medicine, from the United States
and other countries, as well as engineers to help rebuild the country.
The one thing to be avoided is for the United States, which destroyed Iraq
and caused perhaps a million deaths through two invasions and ten years of
sanctions, to play any leading role in the future of that country. In that
case, terrorism would surely flourish. It is for the United States to
withdraw from Iraq. It is for the international community, particularly the
Arab world, to try to reconstruct a nation at peace. That gives the Iraqi
people a chance. Continued US occupation gives them no chance.
Author, in 1967, of Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal, and, later, A People's
History of the United States.
William R. Polk
Lakhdar Brahimi's proposals are interesting, perhaps even hopeful, but they
pose almost as many problems as they address. The Shiites are worried that
he is attempting to undercut their claims on power, and after the siege of
Falluja the Sunnis will probably worry that he is, inadvertently or not,
acting as a cover for American attempts to hang on to control. They have
reason to worry.
The world press has reported that very little real authority will be handed
over to the Iraqis or the United Nations. If the UN is to be of any value in
pacifying Iraq, it cannot simply be used by the United States as a fig leaf.
It must show Iraqis that it is truly independent, and so a worthwhile step
forward for them. For all that, some form of UN trusteeship appears to be
the best answer now available. It seems to me that the best form of
trusteeship is minimal, not much more than attempting to keep order.
Anything more will certainly raise fears in Iraq that outsiders--the United
States or the UN--really intend to stay. That will create the only unity
there now is in Iraq, hostility to foreigners.
Responsible for planning Middle Eastern policy at the State Department,
1961-65 and then a University of Chicago professor of history. His books
include The United States and the Arab World and The Elusive Peace.
John Brady Kiesling
President Bush promised the Iraqi people and the international community
that our military victory would make Iraq a peaceful, democratic state, a
model for its neighbors and a bastion against terrorism. If this was our war
aim, our victory did not achieve it. The resistance movement has pinned down
our soldiers and contractors as enemy occupiers. If our troops pull out,
there will be civil war among a dozen rival factions. If our troops stay, in
redoubled numbers to suppress the violence, their hulking presence will doom
each future Iraqi government to illegitimacy and failure. So let us consider
the alternatives to victory.
In the end a fractured Iraq can be held together only by a man wrapped, like
George Washington or Ho Chi Minh, in the legitimacy that derives from
successful armed struggle. We should note the ease with which a scruffy
young cleric united Sunnis and Shiites against the US presence. A victorious
Secretary Rumsfeld could not impose Ahmad Chalabi. However, a retreating US
military can designate Iraq's liberator. We must select the competent Iraqi
patriot to whom we yield ground while bleeding his competitors. There will
be casualties and disorder, no matter how brilliantly we orchestrate our
withdrawal. But the overwhelming majority of Iraqis will rally around any
man who claims to drive us out, and elections would validate his relatively
The man on a white horse can bring the UN back as invited guests rather than
as our despised surrogates. His police will enforce the law, when ours
cannot. His debts will be forgiven, when ours would not. America must
swallow its resentment and keep a measure of control by doling out the money
to keep the Iraqi state functional. Ten billion dollars a year will buy more
counterterrorism cooperation than a military occupation that costs five
times as much. And we will let the Iraqis do the work. The most virtuous
Halliburton employee is ten times more expensive than the most corrupt
Iraqi. Democracy and human rights may take a generation, but our defeat will
convince a resentful and fatalistic Middle East that change is possible.
The Kurds, admittedly, will resist any weakness in their US ally. Our
parting gift to them will be the southern border for an autonomous Kurdish
entity. The price will be US cooperation with Turkey to extort a semblance
of respect for the Iraqi central government and the rights of Arab and
We were defeated once, in Vietnam, and the dominoes did not fall. We
remained the leader of the free world, sadder but wiser. The ignorance and
megalomania that brought us into Iraq are far more dangerous to US security
and prosperity than would be the symbolic military defeat that gets us out.
A career diplomat who served in US embassies in Tel Aviv, Casablanca, Athens
and Yerevan. In February 2003 he resigned from the Foreign Service in
protest against Bush Administration foreign policy.
The United States faces two critical issues in Iraq. First is the necessity
of genuinely engaging the international community in stabilizing the
security situation, supporting the new Iraqi government after June 30 and
rebuilding the country's infrastructure and economy. Crucially, this does
not mean simply brokering a face-saving resolution and handing off to the
UN, only to blame the UN later when Iraq slides into chaos or worse. On the
contrary, it means clearly defining a UN mandate, to be supported by NATO
and other regional organizations, and then committing the human and material
resources necessary to carry out that mandate. Handing off to the UN without
such support is an abdication of responsibility and an admission of failure.
Second is accepting that a genuine democracy in Iraq will bring a genuine
majority to power. The way to protect minorities in a democratic Iraq is
through federalist provisions and explicit guarantees of minority rights. In
principle, even a Shiite theocracy can abide by such guarantees. The United
States has proclaimed the principles of democracy and self-determination and
must now abide by whatever results are consistent with the protection of
basic international human rights.
Dean, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton
Occupying armies have responsibilities, not rights. Their primary
responsibility is to withdraw as quickly and expeditiously as possible, in a
manner determined by the occupied population. It follows that the orders
issued by proconsul Bremer are illegitimate and should be rescinded,
including those designed to place the economy effectively in the hands of
Western (mostly US) banks and MNCs, and the 15 percent flat tax, which,
apart from its injustice, bars the way to desperately needed social spending
and reconstruction. Without economic sovereignty, prospects for healthy
development are slight and political independence verges on formality.
It also follows that Washington should end the machinations to insure its
long-term military presence and control of Iraqi security forces, in
defiance of the will of Iraqis, who call for Iraqis to control security,
according to Western-run polls, which record only minuscule support for the
occupying military forces and their civil counterparts (the CPA) or the
US-appointed Governing Council. With a decision, however reluctant, to
transfer authentic sovereignty to Iraqis--not just the traditional facade
for Great Power domination--there will be no justification for the huge
diplomatic mission, apparently the world's largest, announced by the
Such steps entail abandonment of plans to establish the first secure
military bases in a client state at the heart of the world's major energy
reserves, a powerful lever of world control, as has been understood for
sixty years, and a means to subordinate the region more fully to US
interests--and the prime motive for the invasion, according to Western polls
in Baghdad, though some agreed with articulate Western opinion that the goal
was to establish democracy (1 percent) or to help Iraqis (5 percent).
A large majority of Americans believe that the UN, not the United States,
should take the lead in working with Iraqis to transfer authentic
sovereignty as well as in economic reconstruction and maintaining civic
order. That is a sensible stand if Iraqis agree, as seems likely, though the
General Assembly, less directly controlled by the invaders, is preferable to
the Security Council as the responsible transitional authority.
Reconstruction should be in the hands of Iraqis, not delayed as a means of
controlling them, as Washington has indicated. Reparations--not just
aid--should be provided by those responsible for devastating Iraqi civilian
society by cruel sanctions and military actions; and--together with other
criminal states--for supporting Saddam Hussein through his worst atrocities
and beyond. That is the minimum that honesty requires.
His most recent books are A New Generation Draws the Line; New Horizons in
the Study of Language and Mind; 9-11; Understanding Power; On Nature and
Language; The Faculty of Language: What Is It, Who Has It, and How Did It
Evolve?; Chomsky on Democracy and Education; Middle East Illusions; and
Hegemony or Survival.
Stephen F. Cohen
For the sake of American lives, values and real security, as well as peace
and stability in the increasingly explosive Middle East, the United States
must find a way to withdraw its military forces from Iraq as soon as
possible. And do so with some vestige of, yes, honor--not for the bogus
reason of international "credibility" but to prevent a malignant
who-lost-Iraq politics in our own country.
The only near-term and honorable way out is by linking a firm US commitment
to a phased military withdrawal to an Iraqi popular election for a
representative national assembly that would itself, not the occupation
authorities or its appointees, choose an interim government, adopt a
constitution for the country and then schedule elections for the new
permanent institutions of government.
For Iraqis, only such a directly elected assembly can have legitimacy and
thus the "sovereignty" that the Bush Administration is desperately trying to
manufacture and "transfer." Do not mistake this approach for the
Administration's afterthought of "building democracy in Iraq," which would
mean resolving all that tormented country's internal conflicts, and for
which America utterly lacks both the power and wisdom even to attempt. It
means instead giving the Iraqis an opportunity to do it themselves. (Whether
or not they can is their destiny, not ours.) Considering the devastating
consequences of an unnecessary American war, providing such a democratic
opportunity is both the least and most we can now do. And having done so,
the United States can declare, paraphrasing sage but ignored advice given
during the Vietnam War, "Mission accomplished. We're going home."
For this democratic exit to work, the United States must, as the otherwise
vacuous refrain goes, "stay the course," but a course based on four promises
that must be kept. American-led occupation authorities will permit free and
fair elections to the national assembly, within the next six to nine months,
under the auspices of the UN or another international body. They will accept
the electoral outcome even if it is an anti-American majority. Meanwhile,
the United States will prepare Iraqi security forces but begin its military
withdrawal once the interim government is functioning. And Washington will
continue to provide funds for the reconstruction of Iraq as long as the new
Iraqi authorities generally abide by their democratic origins.
We must flatly dismiss American proponents of a permanent US garrison in
Iraq--for the sake of oil, Israel, some "anti-totalitarian" crusade, or
empire--but there still may be three objections to this relatively quick and
honorable exit strategy. One is that the American occupation should not end
until there is stability in Iraq, because the consequences will be chaos and
violence. But this admonition ignores the historical lessons of occupations
elsewhere and of the current situation in Iraq: There can be no stability
until foreign occupation ends, as is clear from the chaos and violence
unfolding today. The second objection is that anti-American "extremists"
will disrupt the election for the national assembly. But if such Iraqis
really want America gone, they will support an electoral process that leads
to a US withdrawal.
The third objection may be heartfelt: We did not go to war, and lose lives,
to risk the advent of another anti-American regime in Baghdad. Yes, the Bush
Administration went to war to eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction,
and when there were none, it said the war was really about democracy. Now
this afterthought, whatever the political (or economic) outcome, is the only
way out and our last chance to be remembered as liberators. The alternative
is indefinite colonial-style rule, growing and increasingly violent Iraqi
resistance, and an ever-more brutal and self-corrupting American
occupation--and eventually an even more anti-American regime that will come
to power by means other than the ballot box.
A professor of Russian studies and history at New York University. His
latest book is Failed Crusade: America and the Tragedy of Post-Communist
The first thing we have to adjust to is the reality that nationalism is the
most significant force in Iraq today. It is replacing the genuine feelings
of gratitude that many Iraqis had toward the United States immediately
following their liberation. We have always had a set of objectives--based on
neocon ideology, not Iraqi hopes--which are unattainable because they offend
the spirit of Iraqi nationalism.
One, we want long-term strategic military bases. Two, we count on retaining
significant influence over Iraqi oil policy. Three, we favor unrestricted
foreign investment in a country that has a history of intense hostility
toward alien ownership of the country's economic enterprises and natural
resources. Four, we expect Iraq to support America's role in the Middle East
peace process even when it would mean aligning Iraqi policy with that of
George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon. Failure to achieve those four objectives
will appear to both Republicans and Democrats to be a failure of Bush's
overall Iraq policy. But the Administration has already boxed itself in to
the point where there is no way it can modify those objectives to meet
There has to be regime change in Washington. It's the only way to solve the
Former CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia, he served for twenty-seven years
as an "Arabist" for the agency.
One year after President Bush's announcement of the end of "major combat
operations" in Iraq, Washington's drive to empire faces new and serious
challenges. One year to the day after US military forces famously pulled
down the statue of Saddam Hussein, the front page of the Washington Post
featured a photograph of a US soldier pulling down another potent
symbol--this one a poster of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr--from a pillar in
the same Baghdad square.
The US-led occupation of Iraq is failing, and ending the Bush
Administration's disaster can only begin with ending that occupation--not
with a nominal "transfer of power" that leaves 130,000 US troops still
occupying Iraq, but with an actual end to the occupation. Unlike in Vietnam,
the constant barrage of "we're building democracy in Iraq" rhetoric may have
made it impossible for Bush to "declare victory and get out." Instead,
ending the occupation will likely mean admitting that the war was wrong,
that "staying the course" is only making things worse and that hundreds of
young American and coalition soldiers as well as thousands of Iraqi
civilians are paying an unacceptable price.
The end of the US occupation will not alone, however, mean the end to Iraq's
crisis. Devastated after years of crippling economic sanctions, internal
repression and US assaults that destroyed its governing capacity, Iraq will
require significant international help. But only after full US withdrawal
can serious thought be given to how the global community might--indeed
must--support Iraq's post-occupation efforts to reclaim its sovereignty.
The withdrawal and the dissolution of the US-imposed "Governing Council"
will make possible the entry into Iraq of an international team, led by the
United Nations and backed by the key regional alliances--the Arab League and
the Organization of the Islamic Conference--to provide protection and
support. Accountable to whatever Iraqi authority emerges after the
occupation ends, that team should be made up primarily of technocratic
experts--in elections, in development, in economic planning, etc.--and only
secondarily include a military self-defense and security component.
Most Iraqi military resistance is aimed directly at the occupation; an
international assistance mission that does not control Iraqi territory, does
not impose laws on Iraq, does not hand Iraqi assets over to corporate
profiteers and does not claim Iraq's oil as its own will almost certainly be
welcomed by a majority of the Iraqi people. UN credibility will be severely
diminished if, with or without a new Security Council resolution, the
organization sends personnel, funds or other assistance to Iraq to bolster,
legitimize or "internationalize" the US occupation. Only after the US
occupation ends will UN involvement in Iraq reflect its international
Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and author of Calling the Shots:
How Washington Dominates Today's UN.
Iran and the United States both have competing ambitions and common concerns
in Iraq. Tehran favors popular sovereignty, political equality and majority
rule in Iraq, the exact opposite of its own governing system. This emanates
from the fact that the Shiites of Iraq, the Iranian theocrats'
co-religionists, constitute 60 percent of Iraq's population. The Bush
Administration, in contrast, advocates democracy in abstraction but fears
majority rule in practice. What favors Iran in this competition is the fact
that only the Shiite clerics possess the capacity for mass mobilization in
Iraq. During the terror of Saddam Hussein, more than 200,000 Iraqi Shiites
took refuge in Iran. Today most Iraqi Shiites are grateful to Iranians and
perceive them as allies. Washington is aware of this sentiment and wants
Iran to use its influence to contain the radical anti-occupation elements in
the Shiite communities.
Iran's fears are another story. The Iranian authorities, like most people in
the region, are convinced that Ariel Sharon and his neoconservative allies
in Washington want to ignite a civil war between the Shiites and Sunnis of
Iraq, with the Kurds remaining on the sidelines. Such a war would likely
engulf almost the entire region. Iran would back the Shiites, while Saudi
Arabia, Jordan and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf would aid the Sunnis.
Al Qaeda and the pro-Saddam Baathists, like the Likud government in Israel,
view such a conflict as an advantage for their competing objectives. Iran's
reigning mullahs are convinced that the United States has nothing to gain
and much to lose from such a conflict, but they believe the Bush
Administration can be manipulated to pave the way for it.
The key to preventing this calamity is for the United States and Iran to
start negotiating their differences and support a UN initiative to establish
a federal system consisting of autonomous entities for the Shiites, the
Kurds and the Sunnis. Iran's theocrats have used their confrontation with
the United States to create crises for the purpose of justifying cruel
treatment of their democratic opponents. Normalization of US-Iran relations
can contribute to both the goal of peace in Iraq and the cause of democracy
Professor of politics, Bennington College.
Sherle R. Schwenninger
The most commonly proposed Democratic alternative to the Administration's
policy in Iraq--turning over political authority to the United Nations and
getting more countries to provide more troops and money--is well intentioned
but lacks seriousness, for two reasons.
First, it is not realistic to expect the UN to assume such responsibility
without more resources, without assurances from the United States about
security and without some control over the conduct of American military
strategy. Likewise, it is not realistic to expect countries like Egypt,
France, Germany, Russia, India and Pakistan, which opposed the war, to now
commit substantial troops to Iraq in the middle of a major insurgency,
especially without a larger shift in US policy. For both domestic and
international reasons, these countries do not want to be seen as instruments
of what they consider to be a misguided American policy toward the Middle
East in general.
Second, the Democratic alternative does not go far enough to change the
political dynamic from one of occupation (albeit a more legitimate one) to
one of Iraqi sovereignty. After all, the UN itself has been a target of the
insurgents, and there now seems to be a general mistrust and impatience with
any foreign control over Iraq's future. Any proposal to stabilize Iraq must
restore a sense of ownership to the Iraqi people as well as real power.
For these reasons, we need to think in bolder terms about what we can offer
to the international community and to the Iraqi people in order to gain
their active support for a plan that would transfer authority to the UN and
to an Iraqi interim government. There would need to be three elements to
this grand bargain. The first would be the promise of substantial resources
to the UN, not only for this Iraqi state-building effort but also for
comparable efforts in the future, including resources that would increase
the capacity of the UN to provide more of its own security in the future for
such missions. Unless the United States can demonstrate to the other major
stakeholders in the UN that its attitude toward the organization has
changed, it is unlikely to elicit more than a token response.
The second element of the grand bargain must be the internationalization of
other elements of US Middle East policy that affect the political dynamic
inside Iraq. It makes no sense whatsoever for other countries to commit
money and security forces to Iraq as long as the United States continues to
condone Israeli policy toward the Palestinians and pursues a hostile policy
toward Iran and Syria. At a minimum, this means a shift in American policy
toward nonbelligerence toward Iran and Syria, a commitment to a clear
timetable for a Palestinian state and a commitment to a true
no-weapons-of-mass-destruction zone in the Middle East, which means a
commitment to confront Israel over its possession of nuclear weapons.
The third and final element would need to be a quick turnover of true
sovereignty to the Iraqi people, however ill prepared they may now seem for
this task. At a minimum, any interim government must have control over its
own security forces and economy. To demonstrate that Iraqis own their own
economy, we might consider the idea proposed by Steven Clemons of the New
America Foundation, which would give every Iraqi an ownership stake in the
country's oil wealth. If, for example, on June 30 every Iraqi received $300
as a distribution of future profits from the nation's oil wealth, it might
change dramatically the political dynamics within Iraq, insuring a more
peaceful transition to full statehood.
But unless we are willing to think more boldly along these lines, the wiser
course may be for the United States to withdraw its troops and disengage
more generally from the region, allowing the Iraqi people to sort out their
future, with the understanding that there may be a long period of
instability, but at least the United States would not be a contributing
factor to that instability and no longer a target of Arab anger and
Senior fellow, World Policy Institute at the New School University.