Exit Strategies

Over at TPMCafe, Anne-Marie Slaughter lays out her “plan” for Iraq, which involves… internationalizing the situation. Hm, where have we heard that before? At any rate, her post is worth reading, and it’s important to stress, as she does, that promoting democracy alone won’t cut it—creating a liberal world order is also quite crucial.

That said, it does seem that bringing in international contractors, making the reconstruction process more transparent, fixing our interrogation practices, all of those things are laudable goals, but don’t quite get at the fundamental problem in Iraq: namely, that there are a wide swath of Sunnis who aren’t happy with the power and status they’ve lost, and believe they can recoup much of that beginning to fight; along with a wide swath of Shia who have no intention of weakening their newly-won majority. That’s not the only problem of course; tensions in Kirkuk between Kurds, Arabs, and Turkomen certainly have the potential to erupt and explode and leave hundreds of thousands dead, but the main source of tension seems to be between the insurgents and the government.

What it would take to sort this out is beyond me. Perhaps “staying the course,” meaning the military would continue to hunt insurgents down, continue to hope that the Sunnis can be drawn into the political process (this is a promising step), and continue to keep building Iraq where and when it can. Have patience, keep their fingers crossed, and hope not too many people die. Another option is a limited withdrawal. The problem is that once the U.S. starts down the path of withdrawing its troops, there’s no turning back if it proves to be a mistake. So unless all the mounting pressure for an exit strategy coming out Congress turns into something significant, then, it looks like the status quo will pretty much be the strategy for a long while.