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Debate: Withdrawing from Iraq

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Should troops be withdrawn from Iraq as immediately, and before conditions permit?

Background and context

Following the March 2003 invasion of Iraq by a US-led coalition of forces, the regime of Saddam Hussein rapidly collapsed and coalition forces took control of the country. Despite the rapid and relatively bloodless victory, chaos, looting, crime, an anti-occupation insurgency, sectarian violence, and terrorism emerged in Iraq in subsequent years. Violence in Iraq continued even after the Coalition Provisional Authority handed over sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government in June 2004, and after elections and a constitutional referendum were held in 2005. Calls for withdrawing immediately from Iraq emerged as early as the end of 2003. In February 2006, these calls became particularly acute as the bombing of a Shi'ia mosque in Samarra plunged the country into what some have called civil war. Partly in response to this sectarian violence, the United States initiated a troop "surge" in January 2007, which appears to have reduced violence and increased stability. This has provided supporters of the war with some evidence in support of the continuation of the war. But, with 2008 marking the fifth year of the war and over 4,000 coalition troops dead, and with no clear end to the war in sight, calls for a staged withdrawal from Iraq continue to be voiced.

The debate over withdrawing troops from Iraq can be framed in general terms. Those that advocate for an "early" withdrawal desire a withdrawal before the "conditions" allow for it or before "success" is achieved (they typically object to the premise that "success" is possible). Democrats that call for a "responsible withdrawal" can be said to fall within this camp; the objective being to withdrawal before the "conditions" on-the-ground are met (under the assumption that they cannot be bet), but doing so "responsibly" so as to minimize any damages resulting from such a withdrawal. A timetable withdrawal could also be seen to fall within the pro case in this article, as it does not necessarily correlate to the achievement of desired on-the-ground "successes" and "conditions". The con case calls for the continuation of the war until on-the-ground "conditions" are met and "success" achieved. The below debate is, therefore, a reflection of the general principles and arguments being leveled in this debate. Should the war be ended before the desired "conditions" are met or should it be maintained until they are "successfully" achieved? While this article documents this umbrella debate, it is important to recognize that there are many more specific debates on specific proposals that the below arguments do not address.

To answer the primary question in this debate, additional questions need to be posed. Is the Iraq War illegal under international law? Did it violate the principle that wars can only be conducted in self-defense in the UN charter? Did the UN actually not provide authorization for the war? Was the UN's inspections resolutions and Iraq's failed compliance insufficient grounds for a war? If so, does that mean that the US must withdraw immediately? Even if the war is not illegal, do the false premises of the war (that Iraq had WMD) mean that there is no longer a sufficient justification for the war's continuation? Or, having "achieved" the central justifications for the war - ending Saddam Hussein's regime and ensuring that Iraq has no WMD - can and should the US leave? Is the current war different than it was initially envisioned and might such "mission creep" justify withdrawing sooner than later? Is it necessary for the current course of the war to receive the legitimacy of US Congressional re-authorization and possibly a supportive UN resolution as well? If these can't be obtained, is the US executive office bound to withdraw immediately? Or, has the US Congress continually authorized the war through funding approvals? And, can UN resolutions be replaced by treaties negotiated directly between the United States government and the Iraqi government?

What about the broad strategic interests of the United States? Is the continued prosecution of the War in Iraq outside of these interests? Is it contrary to the interests of coalition nations and the world in general? Is it a distraction from the broader War on Terror? Does it drain resources from other, perhaps more important endeavors, such as domestic programs or the fight against global poverty and disease?

If we assume, for the sake of argument, that the War in Iraq is important and a strategic use of resources, we need to move onto other questions. Is it impossible to "succeed"? Is it impossible to "succeed" in achieving the kinds of "conditions" that would allow for a succesful, democratic, stable Iraq after a US withdrawal? Is "failure" imminent? Have coalition forces made negative, negligible, or insufficient progress in Iraq toward its its objectives and benchmarks toward a measure of "success"? Is the anti-occupation insurgency thriving or is progress being made in this fight? Is sectarian violence continuing at un-mitigated levels or has progress been made here? Is Al Qaeda growing in strength with few signs of progress in the battle against them or has progress been made? Are coalition forces actually inciting violence and part of the problem in each of these various fronts or are they an important factor in stabilizing Iraq? Has political progress in Iraq been inadequate? Is this the most important question involved here? If Iraq requires a political rather than a military solution, is political process and reconciliation failing? What about economic progress? Is this essential, and has this failed to sufficiently materialize? In general, is democracy possible in Iraq? If "success" is impossible, is an early withdrawal simply the lesser of evils? In general, is chaos, civil war, and an Iraqi failed state inevitable, making an early withdrawal the lesser of evils?

What would be the consequences of withdrawing from Iraq before conditions are met? Would it entail mild and tolerable consequences or would it be disastrous? Much of the answer to this question revolves around a previous question regarding whether coalition forces are part of the problem or the solution? Of course, if they are part of the problem, withdrawing them could be beneficial? But if they are truly part of the solution, withdrawing them could be disastrous? Would withdrawing coalition forces end the anti-occupation cause of the insurgency, subsequently ending the insurgency? Or, would the insurgency then have free reign to direct its energies against the budding Iraqi government? Is it wrong to believe that US troops are important in holding sectarian groups apart? Could an early coalition withdrawal from Iraq avoid allowing a civil war? Could it avoid causing a genocide? And, what about Al Qaeda and terrorists in Iraq? Is it wrong to believe that, if coalition forces withdrew early, that Al Qaeda in Iraq and other terrorists would be better off, possibly establishing basis from which they would launch attacks against the United States and other Western countries? Is it wrong to believe that an Islamist caliphate would result? Is it wrong to be concerned about the Kurds seeking independence and a civil war breaking out between them and Iraqi Arabs and the central Iraqi government? Would withdrawing help constrain Iranian influence or would it actually strengthen Iran's influence in Iraq and in the region? In general, would a withdrawal from Iraq be better for democracy on a global scale? Or would it result in the collapse of a budding democracy in Iraq and the establishment of an Islamist state? Would an early withdrawal cause a regional "domino effect" with the democratic experiment failing across the Middle East as a result.

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that the consequences of a coalition withdrawal would be worse for Iraqis than the status quo? Do coalition forces have a responsibility to Iraqis to stay in Iraq to avoid such calamity? Having invaded Iraq and created many of the current problems, can coalition forces turn their backs on some kind of a responsibility to "clean up the mess" or at least minimize the damage? Do broader coalition responsibilities domestically and in the world outweigh these responsibilities to Iraq and Iraqis?

Would withdrawing from Iraq be a responsible use of coalition soldiers or is staying the course an important way to honor the sacrifices of both dead and living soldiers? What has the cost been on US and coalition militaries? Is withdrawing essential to maintaining the integrity and future of the US military? What are the broader costs of the war? Has it been a terrible economic burden on the United States? Has it severely damaged domestic programs in the United States? Has it been a major cause of economic difficulties in the states? Would an early withdrawal stimulate the US and global economies?

Finally, what does the American public want? What do Congressmen want as representatives of American will? Must their will be followed? What do the Iraqis want? While Americans may be opposed to the war, does that mean they would support an early withdrawal? What does their government want as the representatives of their peoples? Does their desire for the United States to establish a timetable for withdrawing have to be followed? What do publics around the world want? Does their will have to be followed? Would UN opposition to the war create the necessity that coalition forces withdraw immediately or on a timetable?

Certainly, this is one of the most important and complicated debates so far in the 21st century. It would appear that the Bush administration plans to stay the course through the end of its presidency in January 20th, 2009. This debate, therefore, appears most relevant to the next president of the United States, who will have to make a choice between these diverging courses of action.

For more background see:

Contents

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Legitimacy: Was the invasion of Iraq illegal/illegitimate? Is continuing it illegal/illegitimate?

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Yes

  • The invasion of Iraq was illegal, making a withdrawal necessary "Iraq war illegal, says Annan". BBC. September 16th, 2007 - "When pressed on whether he viewed the invasion of Iraq as illegal, he said: 'Yes, if you wish. I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN charter from our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal.'" There are two basic justifications for this claim. First, the UN charter only allows for self-defensive wars in cases where the threat is imminent. The threat was not imminent in Iraq's case. Second, exceptions to self-defensive wars require UN approval through Security Council resolutions. No explicit authorization was provided by the UN to the US and coalition forces to wage war. UN resolutions only mentioned "serious consequences" in the event of Iraqi non-compliance with inspectors. "Serious consequences" is certainly not the terminology used by the UN to authorize war; "all necessary means" are the keywords that authorize war, and they were not provided in any UN resolution. Thus, the war was illegal and coalition forces have no legal basis for continued operations in Iraq.
  • The US tried and failed to secure a UN Security Council authorization for war. The US actively attempted to pass a UN SC resolution authorizing the invasion of Iraq. When it discovered that it could not secure enough votes, it withdrew its resolution from the floor. It proceeded with the invasion despite not receiving this authorization, and justified the invasion on the grounds of previous resolutions. But, of course, it knew that this was far less legitimate under international law than receiving an authorization that was relevant to the circumstances. That the Bush administration proceeded despite not receiving a fresh authorization speaks to its disregard for international law and legitimacy.
  • US justifications for war in Iraq were faulty, making a continued occupation baseless. America and its allies should never have invaded Iraq in the first place. Claims that Saddam Hussein was linked to Al-Qaeda, and that he possessed weapons of mass destruction have both turned out to be incorrect, at best, and lies at worse. The war was an illegal act of aggression, without United Nations sanction, and the occupation is therefore also illegal. For this reason alone the coalition should remove its forces from Iraq as soon as possible.
  • Congress authorized the war for objectives that no longer exist The Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) in 2002 was for the removal of Saddam Hussein from office and the elimination of the supposed WMD threat. Both objectives have been "accomplished", which means that the war no longer enjoys congressional authorization and approval. Without such authorization, the war, in its current form, lacks the added legitimacy provided by Congressional consultation and approval. While this alone may not be enough to end the war, the lack of Congressional approval is a major strike against it.
  • The 2001 Congressional "war on terror" resolution does not authorize the Iraq War The Bush administration has cited the "war on terror" legislation passed by the United States Congress weeks after the September 11th attacks as having warranted war in Iraq. But this legislation cannot be viewed as a blank check. While it offered the executive branch the authority to use "all necessary means" to protect the United States from terrorism, this cannot be interpreted to have included an authorization to invade Iraq, which posed no clear terrorism threat.


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No

First, there must be a clear and unequivocal duty on Iraq to comply with council resolutions. Second, there must be a clear and unequivocal breach of that duty. Third, there must be a legitimate and continuing authority for enforcing those actions. All are present."
  • Iraq never disarmed after Kuwait, inviting the use of force Following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and the UN-mandated, US-led expulsion of Iraqi troops from Kuwait, the UN passed resolution 687, which called for Iraq to disarm its WMD stockpiles, or face enforcement by "all necessary means". At the time of the decision to go to war in 2002, Iraq was believed to have not disarmed its WMD stockpiles. The 2003 invasion, therefore, could be justified on the basis of Iraq's non-compliance with resolution 687 and that resolution's mandate for enforcement via "all necessary means".
  • That Iraq did not actually have WMD highlights bad intelligence, not illegal acts. Many intelligence reports and expert opinions internationally corroborated the analysis that Iraq had WMD prior to the 2003 invasion. Leaders and governments cannot be held legally culpable for having trusted for this bad intelligence and analysis. This means that the invasion of Iraq was not really illegal nor that withdrawing from Iraq should be encouraged on such a basis.
  • The UN continually concluded that Iraq was breaching its disarmament obligations The UN repeatedly noted Iraq's non-compliance with its disarmament obligations through the 90s, and authorized the use of force on a number of occasions. Prior to the 2003 invasion, UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix concluded that Iraq continued to shirk compliance, and that it continued to have stores of WMD. The invasion could be justified on these grounds; continued non-compliance and past authorizations for the use of force.
  • Post-invasion UN resolutions authorized the presence of coalition forces in Iraq. While there may be some questions regarding the legal justifications for the invasion of Iraq, there is no question that the UN has provided resolutions authorizing the post-invasion presence of coalition forces in Iraq. On January 1, 2009, the last UN resolution providing this authorization will expire. The United State will likely seek an additional resolution to extend into 2009 and beyond. The point here is that a continuum of UN resolutions have provided continual legitimacy to the presence of coalition forces in Iraq. They also override any argument that the Iraq War is illegal based on the lack of a UN resolution; subsequent UN authorization has been provided. There is, therefore, no justification for withdrawing on the basis of a lack of UN resolutions.
  • The Iraq war was fully justified at the time of the decision based on the evidence. Saddam Hussein's brutal regime did pose a threat to regional stability and to its own people. Whether he actually had weapons of mass destruction is irrelevant - he acted to obstruct and deceive inspectors and so was a general menace to international law and security.
  • Saddam Hussein would have re-started Iraq's WMD program some-day. The evidence suggests that if sanctions had been lifted and no action taken, Saddam Hussein would have restarted Iraq's WMD programs. His memoirs indicate, at least, that he had such a desire.
  • The Iraq war is justified by events; the world is safer. Saddam Hussein is out of power and no longer a shadowy hazard and menace to the region. It is no longer possible for Saddam Hussein to re-build Iraq's WMD. Iraq now has the opportunity to grow into a democratic state, if it chooses. These are welcome developments, despite the costs of the war.
  • The US has to make the best of Iraq irrespective of faulty justifications going in. While the justifications can be debated until the cows come home, the reality in Iraq and the US presence there must be addressed at face value. Actions now must be based on considerations of the best interests of the United States, Iraq, the region, and the world at large. Any withdrawal that is based purely on the legal justifications going into the war would turn a blind eye to the present moral considerations, and would thus be amoral and possibly immoral.


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Democracy: Will a withdrawal be better for democracy in the world?

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Yes

  • The domino theory relies on a highly questionable notion of Iraq turning Islamist. The domino theory depends on the premise that, if the US withdraws, Iraq will turn into an Islamist country, which will then cause other countries to become increasingly Islamist. But, it is a highly questionable notion that Iraq would turn into an Islamist country after a US withdrawal. This depends on Iraq first turning into a failed state and its democratic government crumbling, which is questionable, and then Islamism becoming the dominant political force in the country such that it would influence other countries to adopt Islamism, which are also both highly questionable premises.
  • We should trust that democracy will appeal to Muslims no matter what happens in Iraq. To argue that the success of democracy in the Middle East and in the Muslim world depends on the results of the Iraq War, is to argue that democracy does not have its own inherent appeal. Democracy is, rather, the inherently best form of governance in the world. We must trust, therefore, that the Middle East and Muslims will come to adopt it for this reason, and irrespective of what happens in Iraq.



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No

  • Withdrawing early will destroy the democratic potential of Iraq Iraq has great potential to become a bastion of democracy and secularism in the Middle East. Withdrawing early jeopardizes this historic opportunity. It would also, therefore, undermine the spread of democracy in the Middle East generally.
Finally, if we fail in Iraq, it will be the biggest blow to the prospect of democracy in the Middle East with major political consequences in the future of our foreign policy in that region. Muslim fanatics and al-Qaeda groups will claim victory and will use our failure to increase their presence in the region."


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Broad strategy: Is a continuation of the War in Iraq contrary to US/coalition interests?

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Yes

  • The Iraq War has damaged US international security leverage in the world Some argue that withdrawing from Iraq would cause the United States to be seen as feckless. It is the reverse. The US is seen as feckless because it is hamstrung in Iraq. In fact, the US is actually feckless because it is tied down and exhausting itself in Iraq. The reality of fecklessness that results from the US being in Iraq is more damaging to US leverage than the impression of fecklessness, which may or may not result from withdrawing from Iraq. Withdrawing from Iraq would fix the bigger problem - the reality of fecklessness - and cut the losses of US leverage internationally.
Our continuing presence in Iraq feeds the insurgency and gives the insurgents a certain legitimacy in the eyes of much of the world. We know from our own history that armies of occupation are seldom welcome."
  • The Iraq War has hamstrung US Middle East policy Not only has Iraq drained US resources and military capacity, but it has also dominated its diplomatic and policy attention. It is difficult for the United States to launch any major Middle East policy initiatives, for instance in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, while it is focusing so squarely on the War in Iraq.
  • The world wants the US to withdraw from Iraq and would support its decision to do so. The vast majority of the world publics and leaders desire that the United States leave Iraq. If the United States made the choice to leave, the world and its leaders would mostly support its decision (it's what they are calling for!). The US could be seen as working within the wishes of the global community, and this could do nothing but increase the image of the United States in the world, as opposed to undermining US credibility and image.
  • Torturous and brutal tactics in Iraq have only worsened US moral credibility. Outrage at foreign occupation has been multiplied by brutal American tactics, from the use of degrading torture at Abu Ghraib to the recent discovery that phosphorus weapons were used against civilians in Fallujah. Instances American soldiers at roadblocks shooting men, women and children has also undermined the image of the United States. Indeed, counter-insurgency occupations are ugly and gruesome incidence, which will inevitably undermine the image of the US, cannot be avoided.
  • The US has accomplished its limited strategic objectives in Iraq, so it can leave. Saddam has been removed from office and executed, WMD has not been found, and Iraq is no longer a threat to the region. This was the main thrust of the US mission going into the war. Having accomplished these objectives and having ensured that Iraq in fact does not have WMD, the US can withdrawal on the basis that it has accomplished its limited mission in Iraq.
  • The US is subjecting itself to "imperial overstretch" in Iraq This is a classic phenomena with great powers, in which they engage in unnecessary wars at far greater cost than was ever initially imagined, leading to the weakening of the state and a fall from grace. This has happened many times in history, it can certainly happen again, with Iraq as the catalyst for the fall of the United States.
  • A policy of "containing" fundamentalism would successfully follow withdrawing from Iraq. The policy of "containment" in the Cold War was a success. The idea was to contain the influence of communism while promoting the greater idea of democracy. This succeeded. In the Middle East, a policy of "containing" Islamic fundamentalism should be implemented, while simultaneously promoting the greater idea of democracy and secularism. This will succeed too.
  • The Iraq War has decreased oil production in Iraq rather than secured it Invading Iraq was - at least with nods and winks - secure US and coalition oil interests in a country with the second to third largest oil reserves in the world. It, however, has not done so, and has resulted in the greatest oil-price hikes in decades. For sure this justification for invading was faulty. It may also be true that withdrawing would help re-stabilizing global oil prices. This is based, in large part, on combination of cases that withdrawing from Iraq will not cause greater chaos and that it may actually improve the situation (below).
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No

  • Iraq is a pillar of American strategy in the Middle East that should not be abandoned Senator John McCain, April 2008 - "The fact is, we now have a great opportunity, not only to bring stability and freedom to Iraq, but to make Iraq a pillar of our future strategy for the entire region of the greater Middle East."[1] If Iraq is turned into a functioning democracy, and economically viable state, and an ally of Western democracies, it would become a primary conduit for all US and Western relations in the Middle East. It could become a bastion of international trade and individual property rights, and would act as a beacon of Western democratic principles in the Middle East. In a Middle East without these principles, a succesful Iraq that would serve these purposes would be priceless. While hopes should be tempered by reality in this regard, it is important to also the real importance that such an outcome would have to the future of the Middle and the world generally.
  • If the US withdraws early from Iraq, it will have to return to fight again John McCain. April, 2008 - "Some would withdraw regardless of the consequences. Others say that we can withdraw now and then return if trouble starts again. What they are really proposing, if they mean what they say, is a policy of withdraw and re-invade. I can hardly imagine a more imprudent and dangerous course."[2]
  • A premature US withdrawal would jeopardize world oil supplies If chaos ensues in Iraq, the risk is not simply that a civil war, genocide, and perhaps a regional conflict ensue. The added risk is that the main source of the world's oil becomes embroiled in this conflict, and that global oil prices spike significantly, shocking the global economy and causing a global recession.
  • Withdrawing would be counter to US and allied oil-interests in Iraq. The US and its allies, having invested so much into Iraq, should reap the benefits of Iraq's oil reserves. Benefiting from these oil reserves, with contracts and preferred relations with Iraqi suppliers, is important to US and coalition interests.
  • Succeeding in Iraq will help justify the war and those who supported it. Getting out too soon will simply reinforce the views of those who thought the invasion wrong in the first place. On the other hand, staying in Iraq to secure peace, democracy and human rights will set a positive example to other countries and show that the values for which the war was publicly fought were genuine; to spread democracy with conviction and determination.


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Vietnam comparison: Is Iraq another Vietnam? Would this mean leave or stay?

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Yes

  • The "domino theory" in a post-Iraq-withdrawal Middle East is as illegitimate as it was with Vietnam Many argue that if coalition forces withdraw prematurely from Iraq that Iraq will fall subject to Islamism and tyranny and that, in a domino effect, so too will other Middle Eastern countries fall. This was predicted by proponents of the Vietnam War; that communism would infiltrate Vietnam if the US withdrew and subsequently infiltrate the entire region in a domino-like way. Yet, this did not happen after the US withdrawal from Vietnam. None of the region's nations subsequently became communist (except for Cambodia), and most of them enjoy democratic systems today with booming economies. With this as an example, it would appear false to claim that a US withdrawal from Iraq would result in a domino-like effect in the Middle East. Rather, it is likely that these countries' political systems will remain largely insulated from any political occurrences in Iraq.
  • The death toll following the US withdrawal from Vietnam was not bad While hundreds of thousands, and even millions, of people died in Vietnam and Cambodia after the US withdrew, hundreds of thousands and even millions died while the US was there too. The same could be expected in Iraq. Whether we stay or go, hundreds or thousands of people are probably going to die. So, as difficult as it may be, we should go.
  • Withdrawing from Vietnam did not undercut US credibility and it won't in Iraq either Opponents of withdrawing from Vietnam in the late 60s and early 70s almost all argued that it would damage US credibility in the international arena. And yet, this is not what happened after the withdrawal. Instead, the United States continued to rise in power and influence around the world, with an economy and military that was no longer encumbered by the Vietnam war. It geopolitical strength increased, and thus so too did its geopolitical credibility and leverage increase. These lessons should be applied to Iraq.
  • Success in the Middle East will be achieved like in South East Asia; despite withdrawing US analysts feared withdrawing from Vietnam on the basis that it would undermine the future of US policies in South East Asia. Nevertheless, withdrawing did not lead to the failure of US policies in South East Asia, and some even believe it was necessary to its great successes. Similarly, many analysts fear that withdrawing from Iraq will lead to chaos in the Middle East. Yet, following the history of withdrawing from Vietnam, withdrawing would not appear to jeopardize US Middle East policies, and it may actually help them.


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No

The truth is: America’s departure from Vietnam meant death, torture and imprisonment for millions of Vietnamese and Cambodians. Both contries became communist — which is hardly a good thing.
In my view, America’s withdrawal from Vietnam was the biggest tragedy of American foreign policy during the last century. America’s withdrawal from Vietnam is a gigantic black mark on America’s history."


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"Success": Is "success" in Iraq impossible, making withdrawal necessary?

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Yes

  • It is not credible anymore to claim that success is possible "this time" At every stage of the War in Iraq, from 2003 through 2008, "changes of strategy" have been held out as the kernel of hope toward achieving "success" "just around the corner". Each time, however, "changing" the strategy has failed to bring coalition forces noticeably closer to "success" in Iraq. Things have, rather, steadily worsened. New claims that "strategic changes" will, "this time", make the difference no longer have any credibility, and need to be shut out on this basis. The main problem is that no strategic changes can alter the fundamentals of the conflict (below).
  • No strategic changes in Iraq can alter the fundamental impossibilities of the conflict. The fundamentals of the Iraq conflict cannot be resolved by strategic adjustments. These fundamentals are: a counter-insurgency war, anti-American Iraqis that support insurgents, sectarian hatreds, an endless flood of Jihadi terrorists into Iraq, the difficulties of urban warfare, the lack of sufficient numbers of US troops, and a host of other factors. No strategic changes can affect these fundamental problems. We should not be fooled, therefore, by claims of "strategic changes" holding the key to success "this time". And, with no prospect for "strategic modifications" making success possible, the United States and coalition forces should leave.
  • "Success" in Iraq is impossible so withdrawal should come sooner than later While failure in Iraq is unlikely to arise, it is also unlikely that the US will "win" or that any measure of "success" will ever arise. This is encapsulated by Gen. David Petraeus's observation that "there is no light at the end of the tunnel that we're seeing."[3] This was precisely the situation that arose in Vietnam, in which a war was prolonged that would see neither victory nor defeat. It simply went on and on with no real purpose until the United States was tired and exhausted. The US must realize that it has entered a no-win situation that will simply drain it of its resources and for no clear or achievable goals, and that withdrawing sooner than later is simply the lesser of two evils.


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No

  • The coalition can succeed in Iraq with more fine tunings of its strategy The troop surge is certainly an encouraging sign. But, its success must also be placed in the context of a broader adjustment in strategy that complimented the increase in troops. This has included more "forward bases" in which US troops are placed among Iraqis and Iraqi Security Forces, increasing interaction, trust, and training. It has also included the realization that much of Iraq's insurgents fight for economic reasons. Paying Iraqis to join Iraqi Security forces, therefore, is something that has been initiated to a much greater extent in Iraq in 2007 and 2008, with signs of success. These kinds of strategic adjustments and fine-tunings are taking place constantly, and make "success" a real possibility.
  • Given the investment the US has made in Iraq, it cannot give up now. The United States has invested trillions of dollars into the Iraq War. It is important to achieve a return on that investment, instead of throwing it all away by withdrawing.
  • You cannot ignore the problems involved in the War in Iraq and hope they will go away. Am example of this was Neville Chamberline in WW2. He came back from Berlin, after talking to Hitler, and said he had secured "Peace of are time." The next few days go by and Hitler invades the rest of Czechloslovakia. Then he goes and invades Poland, and WW2 happened. You cannot ignore a problem and hope it will go away! The United States needs to stay focused on the problem in Iraq (Islamic Fundamentalism), as it is central to both its Middle East strategy and the war on terror. It needs to confront the problem now, succeed now, and not delay success into the future where it will come at a greater cost.
  • Americans are increasingly optimistic about the prospects for success in Iraq. A Pew Research Centre March 2008 poll found that 53 percent of Americans believed "the US will ultimately succeed in achieving its goals", up from 42 per cent six months prior to the poll.[4]


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Duty to Iraqis? Would withdrawal shirk a duty to Iraqis to stay in Iraq?

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Yes

  • Withdrawing troops would actually improve security and so uphold any obligation to Iraqis. Many believe that foreign troops are doing more harm than good in Iraq. If this is the case, then a withdrawal of troops would actually improve the security situation for individual Iraqis. As such, it would better meet any moral obligation to the Iraqi people than keeping troops there.
  • The US has obligations to the world that must be considered over obligations to just Iraqis. Iraq cannot be taken in a moral vacuum. The US does not simply have an obligation to Iraqis. It has an obligation to international security as well. The War in Iraq has damaged the United States' ability to uphold its obligations to maintaining international security. Not only has it been a drain on resources and a distraction from US international obligations, but it may even actually damage international security, subsequently damaging the US obligation to upholding international security. Any obligation to the Iraqis cannot be detached from these other obligations. By better enabling the US to live up to its global responsibilities, withdrawing would uphold the principle of "the greater good for the greater number".
  • The US has obligations to its own citizens that must be considered along side obligations to Iraqis. The United States has obligations to its own citizens as well as to Iraqis. It is clear that keeping US troops in Iraq undermines the United States' ability to uphold many of its domestic interests and obligations, particularly due to the massive financial strain of the war. The economic difficulties of the United States toward the end of the Bush administration are a testament to how the Iraq War has damaged US domestic interests. This needs to be weighed against considerations of an obligation to Iraqis.


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No

  • The US has a duty to Iraqis to stay and minimize the damage it has caused "Why they should stay". Economist.com. Sep 13th 2007 - "For all General Petraeus's spin, Iraq is still a violent mess. That is why America should not leave yet[...]If the case for staying depended on extrapolating from the modest gains the general claims for his surge, it would be a weak one. The strong case is that if America leaves, things will get even worse. This can only be a guess, but it is more plausible than the alternative guess that America's going will nudge Iraq in the right direction. In the past two years, violence has tended to decline where American troops are present and to rise in the places they leave. There is no doubt that some Shia militias want to rid Baghdad of its Sunnis and that American troops are for now the only thing stopping them.
[...]Not a must, just an ought
If America could choose again, it would not step into a civil war in Mesopotamia. But there are worse reasons than preventing a bloodbath for a superpower to put its soldiers at risk. Having invaded Iraq in its own interest—to remove mass-killing weapons that turned out not to exist—America owes something to Iraq's people, a slim majority of whom want it to stay. It is hard to know how Iraq can be mended. At some point it may become clear the country has sunk so low it is simply beyond saving. But it is not possible to be sure of that yet."


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Insurgency fight: Is the US presence failing to combat the insurgency there?

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Yes

  • Foreign troops are doing more harm than good in Iraq This is a common argument against the continued presence of coalition forces in Iraq. It is particularly relevant in regards to the anti-occupation insurgency in Iraq, which is focused, by definition, on fighting coalition forces and expelling them from Iraq. If US forces withdraw, most insurgents will stop fighting, and violence in the country will be substantially reduced as a result.
  • Withdrawing from Iraq would remove the rallying cause of the insurgency An insurgency exists in Iraq, in large part, to expel "occupying" US forces. This cause is supported by roughly half the Iraqi population. If the US withdrew from Iraq, the insurgency would have no cause and basis for existing nor for perpetrating its violent acts. The Iraqi population would withdraw support for any continued violence waged on their behalf, and the insurgency would effectively fade away.
George McGovern and Jim McGovern. "Withdraw From Iraq". Boston Globe. June 6, 2005 - "Our continuing presence in Iraq feeds the insurgency and gives the insurgents a certain legitimacy in the eyes of much of the world. We know from our own history that armies of occupation are seldom welcome."
  • The US presence in Iraq has drawn in tens of thousands of foreign fighters. The US presence has created a regional reaction against the "invaders" and "crusaders". This has resulted in a flood of foreign fighters to Iraq. If the US withdrew from the country, far fewer, if any, foreign fighters would enter the country, which would help reduce violence and stabilize the country.
  • Sunni insurgents are too weak to seize Baghdad following a US withdrawal Shiites and Kurds, in addition to loyal Iraq soldiers, are more powerful in number and in arms than Sunni insurgents. This has much to do with the fact that the USA has been arming Shiite and Kurd militias to combat Sunni insurgents. This Shiite and Kurd militias and troops would oppose and prevent Sunni insurgents from seizing control of Baghdad.


[Add New]

No

  • An early US withdrawal from Iraq would boost the morale of insurgents If the insurgency saw the US leave Iraq, they would feel that they had achieved a success. They would feel emboldened to continue the fight with greater energy against Iraqi troops and the Iraqi government, whom would carry the mantle of "collaborators" and democratic, anti-Islamist belief.
  • Following a withdrawal, insurgents would attack the Iraqi government and troops. Some argue that a US withdrawal would eliminate the cause celebre of the insurgency. Yet, insurgents are fighting the Iraqi government as much as they are fighting foreign troops in the country. If foreign troops withdraw, insurgents will simply focus their fight against the Iraqi government, with the end-goal of unseating the government and seizing power.
  • An early US exit would demoralize Iraqi troops Iraqi troops need the support and training of US troops. If the US leaves, this support will be withdrawn, and will be severely demoralizing for Iraqi troops, subjecting them to a much harder and more dangerous fight. This may cause them to hold back or possibly to quite all together.


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War on terror: Is it wrong to think the War in Iraq protects the homeland?

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Yes

  • A US troop presence in Iraq provides terrorists with a justification for their presence among Iraqis. Most Iraqis oppose the US occupation of Iraq, some to the extent that they are willing to support the cause of the insurgency. And, as long as Al Qaeda frames its mission in Iraq as part of this anti-occupation effort, they are largely welcome. But, if foreign troops leave, Al Qaeda will not longer have a cause to justify its presence, and they will lose the support they enjoy from Iraqis.
  • A US withdrawal might embolden Jihadists, but they are insignificant in Iraq The proportion of the fighters in Iraq that are driven by a Jihadist/terrorists cause is very small. Most are fighting to expel the United States, to fight other religious sects, or simply to earn money. Therefore, while a withdrawal might embolden Jihadists, they are so insignificant in Iraq that the effect would be negligible on Iraq and US and coalition security interests.
Al Qaeda will take over the country. This risk is now non existent. Al Qaeda's support is strongest among Sunnis, whom the Shia outnumber by three to one. The Shia control the military, the police, and numerous militias. The United States has ramped up its operations in Baghdad in part to stop the Shia from cleansing the Sunnis from Baghdad. There will be no caliphate in Baghdad, whether Americans stay or leave.
Iraq will become a new Afghanistan, to Al Qaeda's benefit. The most extreme among the Sunni insurgents may indeed be committed to international jihad, and they may continue to work clandestinely out of Iraq, as they do today. But these jihadis will not be comfortable. Iraqi Shi'ites despise them, and even many Sunnis oppose them. US intelligence will indeed have to keep an eye on them, and special operations forces may occasionally need to sneak back into Iraq to strike at them. These are capabilities the United States has spent billions building up since Sept. 11."
  • Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) is not coordinated with Al Qaeda at large AQI emerged in Iraq as a fairly independent organization from Al Qaeda. They adopted the name Al Qaeda in Iraq because they are terrorists and because they desired to achieve a kind of "brand recognition". But, because they are not coordinated directly with Al Qaeda at large, it would be unfair to say that any strength they accumulate from a US withdrawal from Iraq would correlate to strength accumulated by Al Qaeda at large.
  • Iraq is only a jihadist-terrorist threat because US troops are there to be targeted. If US troops leave, there will no longer be a foreign target for terrorists in Iraq and from the region. Certainly, they may try to attack the United State and other western countries through various means, but his would be more difficult than fighting US forces in Iraq. Withdrawing from Iraq would deprive terrorists of as many opportunities to strike as they currently enjoy.
  • Coalition troops in Iraq fuel anti-Americanism and terrorism globally Foreign troops in Iraq anger Muslims and Muslim terrorists globally. The reason is a combination of the faulty premises of the invasion and of convictions that it is an affront to Islam for foreign troops to be stationed in Muslim territory. The anger that this causes feeds into anti-Americanism and anti-Western beliefs, which help fuel jihadist and terrorist causes.
  • The Iraq War has distracted attention away from the War on Terror Withdrawal would make it easier for an over-stretched America to focus on a broader anti-terrorism strategy, aimed at building democracies and promoting human rights in the Middle East and elsewhere. Getting all the CIA's Arabic speakers back from Baghdad's Green Zone would also allow restructured US intelligence agencies to concentrate on preventing future terrorist attacks.
  • Occupying Iraq makes the USA and its allies targets for terrorist attack throughout the world. The Madrid and London bombings, as well as attacks on coalition interests worldwide (e.g. Australians in Indonesia) show that the Iraq war has made us less safe. Until western forces are withdrawn from Iraq, the citizens of coalition countries will continue to be unnecessarily at great risk from terrorism.
  • Mending relations with countries that opposed the war would make it easier to fight the war on terror. Mending relations with the Arab and Muslim world, as well as the many other countries which opposed the war would make it easier to fight the war on terror.
  • It is wrong to believe that we need to fight terrorists in Iraq to prevent them from coming to the US. Some proponents of the war argue that it is necessary to fight terrorists in Iraq so that they don't come across the Atlantic to the United States. This is wrong on many levels. First, very few terrorists in Iraq have the resources to get to the United States to attack. Second, our Homeland Security apparatus is designed to prevent this from happening. Third, terrorists are already trying to enter the United States to wage war there, but are failing. Fourth, the presence of the United States can only inflame the desire of terrorists to come to the United States to wage war.
  • Withdrawing from Iraq may embolden terrorists, but the war itself emboldens them Critics of a withdrawal often argue that it would embolden terrorists. While this may be true, this completely ignores the fact that the war itself emboldened terrorists more than anything else. It continues to embolden them with a cause. While withdrawing may be a "success" for terrorists, and embolden them in this way, it will take away their cause of "expelling the crusader", which is the foundation of their support across the Muslim world.


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No

  • An early withdrawal from Iraq would embolden terrorists Withdrawing from Iraq would concede a major victory to terrorists around the world that would be used as evidence of the "success" of a global Jihadi movement and would be used to advance the continuation of the war on broader fronts and theaters around the world, particularly in inspiring recruits to join the fight. Instead of running, we have to confront and overcome the terrorists in Iraq, sending a message that we are determined, and are prepared to persevere in the face of hardship for a noble cause. This will demoralize terrorists, and cause them to retreat and give up.
  • The war in Iraq is a central front in the war on Islamic fundamentalism Islamic fundamentalism is the biggest threat facing the United States, coalition countries, the West, and democracies around the world. It is nearly equivalent in stature to the threat communism posed in the Cold War. And it is the root cause of Jihadi terrorism. Iraq has become the central front in the fight between Islamic fundamentalism and Western democratic principles. If coalition forces withdraw and Iraq is lost, a major battle in the war against Islamic fundamentalism will be lost. This cannot be allowed to happen. This is the view of former Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who wrote on January 18, 2007, "The war in Iraq is part of another war that cuts across the Shiite-Sunni issue: the assault on the international order conducted by radical groups in both Islamic sects."[5]
Multiple Al Qaeda operatives have expressed a broad strategic will within Al Qaeda to fight The great battle against the United States in Iraq. Both these statements, and the significant presence of Al Qaeda and other terrorists in Iraq add credence to the notion that Iraq has become the main theater of the war on terror. To withdrawal from this theater would be to concede defeat on the main battle field of the war on terror. Such a loss would be devastating to the broader efforts of this war.
  • If the US withdraws from Iraq, it will become an Islamist base for Al Qaeda Mortimer B. Zuckerman. "Seeing the Job Through". U.S. News and World Report. December, 4th, 2005 - "The consequences of leaving Iraq prematurely could be a radical Islamic regime funded with oil revenues, an unfettered platform for terrorist attacks, destabilizing the Middle East and threatening America itself. Know the enemy. Zarqawi has a long history of terrorist activities. He organized the assassination of Lawrence Foley, a U.S. Agency for International Development official, in Amman in 2002, he planned terrorist attacks in Germany a year later, and he plotted last year to attack Jordan's intelligence service and prime minister's office, as well as the U.S. and Israeli embassies there. Three al Qaeda operators crossed from Iraq into Jordan, smuggling seven Katyusha missiles in the underbelly of an aging Mercedes with a hidden second gas tank. Moreover, Jordanians discovered a warehouse of chemical substances and 20 tons of explosives. The 71 types of chemical substances included nerve gas and substances that cause third-degree burns and asphyxiation. Ultimately, the terrorists were diverted, but this is the kind of mayhem we can expect if al Qaeda is permitted to establish paramountcy in Iraq. This year, of course, it was Zarqawi who masterminded the suicide attacks on the three tourist hotels in Amman in which dozens died."
  • Once the US leaves, terrorists will launch a massive, violent campaign. The terrorists in Iraq are just waiting for the United States to leave. When they exit, they will launch a massive campaign against the Iraqi government, partly predicated on the notion that the Iraqi government is an illegitimate stooge of the United States and also on the notion that its democratic practices are contrary to the caliphate that they seek to establish.
  • The Iraq war has not made us more vulnerable to terrorist attacks than before We were already targets. The attacks on New York and Washington of September 11th 2001 took place well before the start of the Iraq War, and other Al-Qaeda attacks and plots against coalition countries took place before 2003. Furthermore, more recent attacks in Indonesia and France have shown that even countries opposed to the Iraq war are not safe from Islamic terrorists.
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Political progress: Are the politics in Iraq hopeless, warranting a withdrawal?

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Yes

  • A coalition timetable would force Iraqis to come together and work faster. Iraqi politicians over-rely on US security forces. This has caused their complacency. Setting a date for withdrawing from Iraq would force them to work harder, reconcile differences, more rapidly improve the Iraqi security forces, and secure the future of their country.
  • There is no military solution in Iraq Many military and civilian leaders have stated that there is no military solution in Iraq; that a political solution is the only possible solution. If this is the case, and if the political situation is seen as intractable (as argued above), then there is no possible solution at all in Iraq, even if some military progress is being made.
  • Coalition forces harm the popular legitimacy of Iraqi leaders that work with them The vast majority of Iraqis are opposed to the American occupation. They are, by extension, largely opposed to Iraq leaders whom support and are supported by the United States. This creates an inherent dilemma for the United States' continued presence in Iraq. First, whichever Iraqi leaders the United States provides resources, security, and political support to will be rejected by the majority of Iraqis. Lt. Gen. William E. Odom wrote in 2006, "No Iraqi leader with enough power and legitimacy to control the country will be pro-American."[6] This means both that the United States will taint any Iraqi leader that it touches and that it has little future in Iraq as a political arbiter and diplomatic partner. This means that the United States' troop presence in Iraq is both bad for the present political leadership in Iraq and that the United States has little long-term political future in Iraq. This adds credence to the notion that it should leave.
  • The Iraqi people and government are full capable of providing for their own security. Sheikh Sabeeh al-Ani, chief of the al-Ani tribe, said in 2007 - "I think Iraq is full of sincere and capable people who will run the country successfully without US protection and support."[7]
  • Political progress lends as much to the notion of withdrawing as staying. Iraq has a new, elected government, and has successfully voted in a referendum on a new, relatively liberal constitution. Sunni factions are now engaging in political discussions and the new regime is gaining recognition from neighbouring states. At the same time the new Iraqi army and police are gaining in numbers and ability.
  • Democracy not possible in Iraq, so why stay? Sheikh Ismail al-Qargoly, head of the Qargol tribe, said in 2007 to Al Jazeera, "I will be honest with you; democracy will not work in Iraq. If and when the US military withdraws, Iraqis will realise that only a dictator with an iron fist can put down the fighting and bring security."[8] This can be taken to mean that any efforts in Iraq are hopeless and so should be ended.


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No

  • An early withdrawal would destroy Iraq's nascent government. An early US withdrawal would force the Iraqi government to maintain its security. But, the Iraqi government is not capable of securing its country at this stage. Faced with a task that it cannot fulfill, the Iraqi government will lose legitimacy in the eyes of the people and disintegrate.
  • Political progress has been made but must be continued with coalition support. Although the constitution and formation of a legitimate government are major achievements, there is still much work to do. Sunni Arabs have to be convinced that the new settlement is in their interests and be drawn into government. This requires that they, and others, are convinced that the Iraqi government will stand the test of time, which requires the support of the US both politically and militarily.
  • Despite promising developments, it is unrealistic to expect Iraq's own forces to be able to take over fully in the near future. As regional police forces gain confidence and experience, and as individual army battalions become trained, properly equipped and battle-ready, then a gradual withdrawal of coalition troops can take place over the course of the next few years.
  • An early US withdrawal would undermine international support for the Iraqi government International support for the Iraqi government is largely predicated on US involvement in the country as well as the legitimacy that the US presence lends. It is also based on the fact that the US presence better ensures the future of Iraq and the Iraqi government. Without a US troop presence, therefore, other countries will find it harder to invest in the future of Iraq and relations with its government.


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Economic progress: Is the Iraqi economy hopeless or progessing?

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Yes

  • Sputtering Iraqi economy requires indefinite US presence "A responsible plan to the end the war in Iraq." 2008, Democratic plan - "Economic crisis in Iraq The state of the Iraqi economy gives Iraqis little incentive to work to preserve it. Unemployment is estimated at 60 percent,24 and most educated Iraqis, or those with money, have already fled. Foreign direct investment is under 1 percent. Most Iraqis have electricity for less than 3 hours per day. This economic paralysis is a direct impetus for the ongoing violence. Young, unemployed men end up joining militias that vie for control of neighborhood turf, rather than putting their energies toward rebuilding a shattered nation."


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No

  • Iraq contains oil reserves critical to global economy "While its proven oil reserves of 112 billion barrels ranks Iraq second in the work behind Saudi Arabia, EIA estimates that up to 90-percent of the county remains unexplored due to years of wars and sanctions" [10]. The current stagflation the U.S. is experiencing is rooted in the oil shortages and energy shortcomings - continued troop presence is paramount to obtaining and using these resources effectively and preventing U.S. stagflation.


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The surge: Was the "surge" not really a "success"?

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Yes


[Add New]

No

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Part of problem? Are US troops a main part of the problem in Iraq?

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Yes

  • Foreign troops are doing more harm than good in Iraq Many argue that the presence of US troops is largely exacerbating problems in Iraq, in particularly because the insurgency and terrorists are fighting US troop on an anti-occupation premise. If coalition forces leave, insurgents and terrorists will stop waging an anti-occupation war. This means that an entire component of the War in Iraq will end. While violence between Iraqis may persist on various levels, withdrawing the occupation-insurgency-terrorist front would markedly improve security.
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No

  • That coalition troops are not the cause of violence is shown by the fact that most attacks are not against them. These attacks are largely against ordinary Iraqis, including innocent shoppers and worshippers in mosques, as well as policemen, soldiers and potential recruits, and construction workers. This is why the civilian death toll is so large in Iraq. Such a death toll, while unleashed by the invasion of Iraq, is not a direct cause of the presence of US troops. It is, rather, a result of many internal tensions between Iraqis that the US troops can help mollify.


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General consequences: Could an early withdrawal from Iraq generally avoid causing chaos?

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Yes

  • Case against Iraq withdrawal relies on fear mongering Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in a March 30th, 2008 Washington Post article, "The contrast between the Democratic argument for ending the war and the Republican argument for continuing is sharp and dramatic. The case for terminating the war is based on its prohibitive and tangible costs, while the case for ’staying the course’ draws heavily on shadowy fears of the unknown and relies on worst-case scenarios. President Bush’s and Sen. John McCain’s forecasts of regional catastrophe are quite reminiscent of the predictions of ‘falling dominoes’ that were used to justify continued U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Neither has provided any real evidence that ending the war would mean disaster, but their fear-mongering makes prolonging it easier."
  • Once the US begins to leave, Iraqi's will take control of their own security. While many argue that the current Iraqi forces are incapable of securing Iraq currently, it is frequently noted that they rely too heavily on US military and government support. Once that support begins to be withdrawn, Iraqis will take seriously their independent capacity to secure and govern themselves.



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No

  • Reports concluding that an early withdrawal from Iraq would be disastrous A Institute of Peace report on April 6th, 2008 warned that a fast exit from Iraq "risks a complete failure of the Iraqi state, massive chaos and even genocide."[11] A myriad of other reports have drawn this conclusion. It is the number and authoritativeness of them that really draws attention and credibility to concerns that an early withdraw would be disastrous in Iraq.


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Genocide? Could an early withdrawal from Iraq avoid causing a genocide?

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Yes

[P]rominent journalist and humanitarian activist David Rieff believes that if genocide is inevitable in Iraq, we should stand back and watch. He asks '... why the U.S. should remain in Iraq at all: [1] The usual answer is that because if we leave [Iraq] there will be a genocide. ... The deeper questions are (a) whether short of open-ended colonization, the U.S. has the power to prevent the genocide whose preconditions we ourselves created through our hubris, (b) whether the future of the Iraqi polity should be one of the main foci of our concerns, and (c) whether the cost of preventing genocide is one we as a polity can afford to pay. My answer to all three questions is no.'"[12]


[Add New]

No

  • An early withdrawal from Iraq would result in a Shiite genocide of Sunnis. The animosities between Sunnies and Shiites are very high in Iraq, resulting in heavy sectarian fighting that some have called Civil War. And, yet, there are many more Shiites than there are Sunnies in Iraq. Shiites constitute roughly 60% of Iraq's population, with Sunnies representing roughly 15 to 20%. This creates the potential that, in the event that the United States withdrawals early from Iraq, that Shiites will viciously attack and overwhelm the Sunni population, in what could become known as a genocide. Adding to this threat is the fact that the United States has been arming predominantly Shiite militias and police forces as a result of the reality that the insurgency and Al Qaeda are predominantly Sunni.
  • An early withdrawal could turn Iraq into another Cambodia. The right half of the blogosphere points to the genocide in Cambodia after the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam and argues that something similar could transpire in Mesopotamia; the left half contends that to stay in Iraq is to contribute to an ongoing slow-motion genocide.
[...]In other words, let's get real. Let's not pretend we care about the possibility of future genocide in Iraq if we do little or nothing about it where it's already happening now."


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Civil war? Could an early withdrawal avoid causing a civil war?

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Yes

  • Coalition forces are fueling sectarian conflict by playing groups against each other The counter-insurgency war in Iraq is fought largely against Sunni insurgents and Al Qaeda terrorists. The US have disproportionately armed Shiite and Kurdish militia in order to fight this Sunni-counter-insurgency. This, of course, has fueled sectarian conflict and it undermines the role of coalition forces in Iraq as disinterested intermediaries in the conflict.
  • An early withdrawal would end Sunni fears of working with Shiite "collaborators" Coalition forces are considered "occupiers" in Iraq. As a result, when the coalition works predominantly with Shiites on security and in the Iraqi government, Shiites are subsequently viewed by Sunnis as "collaborators". This makes it more difficult for Sunnis to work with Shiites out of fear of being branded as working with the "collaborators"; in effect, being labeled "collaborators" themselves. A US withdrawal would eliminate these fears of cooperation, and help avoid civil war.
  • Iraq's Sunnis and Shiites have a history of tolerance not violence While Sunnis and Shiites may have a history of animosity in the Middle East generally, Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites have a history of tolerance as well as national unity and pride. In fact, Iraq has been know for a high level of shiite-sunni integration in its urban areas, particularly in Baghdad. While some Shiites and Sunnis are mortally pitted against each other in Iraq, the general feeling is not one of hatred, making it unlikely that a civil war would emerge.
  • Regional powers have an interest in preventing civil war Barry Posen. "The risks of staying vs. leaving Iraq". Boston Globe. April 19th, 2007 - "If the civil war intensifies, regional powers will rush in. This too is already under way, but escalation into a giant civil war is not in anyone's interest. Syria, Iran, and Turkey have Kurdish minorities which may become restive during such a war. The Saudis would likely prefer that their Sunni Arab friends make a deal, rather than wage a fight that they might lose. Even Iran, whose Shia co-religionists stand to win such a war, faces risks. The Arab Shia are not one big happy family; they kill each other in Iraq today. Most Iraqi Shia think of themselves as Arabs; heavy-handed Iranian intervention may energize their nationalist opposition."
  • Iraqi civil roots are strong enough to avoid civil war if US leaves There is a strong tradition of civil society, civic institutions, and literacy in Iraq. All of this makes it less likely that hatreds will develop to the extent that they can fuel and civil war. They also means that Iraqis have more public, civil exhaust valves to express complaints and grievances and deal with concerns non-violently.
  • Few Iraqi sectarian leaders want a civil war to disrupt their oil revenues There is a strong interest among Iraqi leaders to benefit from Iraq's massive oil reserves (the second to third largest in the world). Often times, sectarian leaders benefit through corruption. But, this can all act to constrain the break-out of a civil war, as a civil war would substantially reduce oil revenues. Therefore, in the absence of coalition troops it is, nevertheless, likely that sectarian leaders will attempt to avoid a civil war so that they continue to benefit from Iraq's oil revenues.
  • Iraqis would unify around an early US withdrawal, avoiding civil war Because almost all Iraqis want to see the coalition leave Iraq, on some timeline, they will likely unify in rejoicing the withdrawal of coalition forces. Certainly, they can all agree on this. Following such a unifying moment, it will be harder for sectarian groups to bear down on each other.
  • After a coalition withdrawal, Iraqis won't want to fail their country by waging a civil war. After the coalition withdraws, Iraqis will be faced with a choice. Iraqis don't want to commit their country to a suicidal fate in a civil war. Indeed, after a coalition withdrawal, Iraqis alone could be blamed for engaging in a civil war. They will want to avoid being held responsible for committing their country to a civil war and a slow death as a country.
  • Regional powers would provide limited support to Iraqi proxies in any civil war Regional powers are most likely to provide funding alone, and possibly small arms to factions in Iraq, in the case of a civil war. This is partly because they simply are unlikely to want to make substantial financial and resource commitments to these countries. It is also partly predicated on the notion that they would rather not see a civil war spill into a regional war.
  • US troops should not be in Iraq to police a civil war.


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No

  • Coalition forces are neutral and so more capable than Iraqi troops of preventing civil war The obvious reason why coalition troops are effective in holding Iraqi factions apart is that they are not Iraqi Shiites, Iraqi Sunnis, nor Iraqi Kurds. This means that coalition troops can act effectively ad unbiased arbiters, security forces, policemen, and check point officers. And, Iraqis can trust coalition troops as unbiased in these roles, which is absolutely essential. If coalition forces were not trusted as arbiters in a sectarian conflicts, they would would not be approaches by Iraqis with important information on crime or sectarian violence.
  • Many armed sectarian factions have a direct interest in fomenting civil war. Many of the leaders of sectarian groups have a direct interest in fomenting civil war. These groups and their leaders are frequently disenfranchised from the Iraqi government and are incapable of achieving power through political means. Therefore, they are only capable of attaining power through their means of power, violence. A civil war, to the extent that it creates opportunities to use the power of force and violence, is subsequently within the interests of many of these disenfranchised armed groups. This is why so many armed groups seem to be attempting to foment violence. If the US withdraws, the opportunity to seize power through force will appear greater, as decisive repercussions from the US military will be gone. The nodes of a civil war, therefore, would increase.


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Regional war? Could an early withdrawal avoid causing a regional war?

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Yes

  • Regional powers in Iraq not equipped for war Barry R. Posen. "The risks of staying vs. leaving Iraq". Boston Globe. April 19, 2007 - "The worst case. The civil war escalates; outsiders back their friends; their friends begin to lose, so the war escalates to become a regional conflagration. Could happen, but one should not exaggerate the military capabilities of any of the local players. They are all heavily armed, but conventional warfare is not the strong suit of any of the regional actors, with perhaps the exception of Turkey. The Saudi forces, though equipped with modern weapons, are almost surely helpless without help from western contractors. Iran's air forces are obsolete and highly vulnerable to American air attack. Moreover, Saudi Arabia and Iran are one-crop countries; each depends on oil facilities that are vulnerable to attack by the other. A kind of Mutual Assured Destruction should deter both from risking general war."
  • Troops could be withdrawn to Iraq's borders to ensure against a regional conflict. It is a consideration that coalition troops be withdrawn to the borders of Iraq, so that they can contain the potential "spill over" of any civil or simply to constrain regional forces from getting involved in the conflict.
[Add New]

No

  • A civil war in Iraq would draw in regional powers In a January 2007 report, "Things Fall Apart: Containing the Spillover From an Iraq Civil War," Pollack and co-author Daniel Byman studied 11 civil wars, from Lebanon in the 1980s and Afghanistan and the Balkans in the 1990s, to Somalia and the Congo today. They uncovered that, in nearly every case, civil wars and collapsed states attracted the military intervention of neighbors who saw their interests threatened. If civil war occurs in Iraq, it is likely to result in a similar fate, drawing surrounding states into a broader regional war.[13]
The official said the king 'read the riot act' to the vice president when the two met last month in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
The New York Times first reported the conversation Wednesday, saying Saudi support would include financial backing for minority Sunnis in the event of a civil war between them and Iraq's Shiite majority.
Asked about the meeting, a senior Saudi official -- who spoke on condition he not be named -- ruled out using terminology such as 'warning' or 'threatening.' He said, 'I believe the Saudi position was clear, that things might deteriorate or drift in Iraq, and then the kingdom will find itself forced to interfere.'"


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Kurds: Would the Kurds be cool or would they seek to establish Kurdistan?

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Yes

  • Turkey is unlikely to intervene if the Kurds secede Turkey is more concerned with its EU membership than dealing with the Kurds. A heavy-handed reaction on its part to Kurdish secession, would jeopardize their EU bid. This will prevent them from invading Iraq. This all reduces the risks of a US withdrawal, in the event that it causes the Kurds to secede.
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No

  • Withdrawing coalition troops from Iraq would increase the likelihood of a civil war between Kurds and Arabs. Neither Sunnis nor Shiites have forgotten that the Kurds supported Iran in its war against Iraq in the early 1980s. Arab animosity toward the Kurds has been worsened by Kurdish demands for autonomy and control over the oil wealth of Northern Iraq. If the US withdrew, there is a good chance that the Kurds would seek to stake these claims. Without coalition forces acting as arbiter, Arab Iraqis and the central government may respond with force, inciting a Kurdish-Arab civil war.


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Iran: Would withdrawal benefit the United States' ability to deal with Iran?

[Add New]

Yes

  • Iranian influence in Iraq is limited because Iraqi Shiites are Arab not Persian. It is important to note that Iraqi Shiite are Arab while Iranian Shiite are Persian. This places significant limitations on Iran's capacity to exert influence over the southern region of Iraq, and generally should reduce concerns that a US withdrawal from Iraq will result in Iran taking control over Iraq, or at least the Shiite south.
  • Staying in Iraq risks starting a war with Iran The United States is more likely to start a war with Iran while it is in Iraq, simply because the potential for armed conflict across the border is more likely. Such a war would be bad for the United States, bad for Iran, and bad for the world. The United States should decrease the risk of this occurring by withdrawing troops from Iraq.
  • The Iraq War has benefited Iran by eliminating its Iraqi adversaries Historically, Iraq has been Iran's primary adversary, with the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) being the primary, bloody, expression of that adversarial relationship. By invading Iraq, the United States eliminated one of Iran's key adversaries in the region. This makes it odd that supporters of the war are now arguing that the United States should not withdraw from Iraq because this would benefit Iran. It's odd that supporters of the war initially ignored how the invasion would benefit Iran and now emphasize how withdrawing would benefit Iran. You can't have your cake and eat it too.
  • The Iraq War has benefited Iran by distracting and weakening its US adversaries. The United States is Iran's other main adversary. It benefits immensely from the United State's current predicament in Iraq, as it distracts and weakens the United States. If the United States believes that Iran is an enemy that it needs to focus attention on, than it should withdraw from Iraq and re-focus its energies on Iran.


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No

  • Iran's influence in Iraq would grow significantly if the United States withdraws. If the United States withdraws from Iraq, it will be much easier for Iran to project its influence there. Iraqis will find that there are fewer risks in accepting Iranian support, as the United States will not be there to check and punish those that accept it. It will be easier for Iran to project such influence as the United States will be less able to interdict that support.
  • Withdrawing from Iraq will damage the United States' ability to deal with Iran. Olmert said in remarks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in March 2007. - "Those who are concerned for Israel's security, for the security of the Gulf States and for the stability of the entire Middle east should recognize the need for American success in Iraq and responsible exit. Any outcome that will not help America's strength and would, in the eyes of the people in the region, undercut America's ability to deal effectively with the threat posed by the Iranian regime will be very negative"[14]
  • Withdrawing from Iraq would embolden Islamic extremists in Iran.
Israel Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said in March 2007, that the U.S. should not show weakness in Iraq, in a region where "impressions are important," and can demonstrate weakness and surrender to extremists. "If we appease the extremists - if they feel that we are backing down - they will sense victory and become more dangerous not only to the region, but to the world," she said. "This applies to the decisions made on Iran, it is true for Iraq, and it is true across the Middle East."[15]
"Olmert tells AIPAC: Early Iraq exit would destabilize entire Mideast". Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz Correspondent, and News Agencies. March 13th, 2007 - "It is simply not consistent for anyone to demand aggressive action against the menace posed by the Iranian regime while at the same time acquiescing in a retreat from Iraq that would leave our worst enemies dramatically emboldened and Israel's best friend, the United States, dangerously weakened. Either we are serious in fighting the war on terror or not."


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Soldiers: Would an early withdrawal honor US soldiers?

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Yes

  • US leaders should not honor dead soldiers by keeping live ones in harms way As some people have put it, "supporting the troops means withdrawing them".[16] The general logic of this is that civilian leaders have a duty to use troops responsibly. But, if we assume that Iraq has become a war without ends and mission, then keeping troops there would be considered irresponsible, dishonoring the troops, as opposed to honoring or supporting them.
  • Setting a timetable would boost troop morale not damage it Under the assumption that most troops in Iraq are suffering from severe anxiety, psychiatric trauma, and risk of death, it is no surprise that troops would prefer to come home. A timetable would give troops something to look forward to and, subsequently, boost morale, not decrease it.
  • Hiding behind "support the troops" abrogates the responsibilities of command Commanding troops means making the choice to put them in harms way or withdrawal them from harms way. Command decisions have nothing to do with soldiers feeling "unsupported". It is their duty to serve. Making the emotions of soldiers a factor in command decision entirely corrupts the nature of command responsibilities.
  • Keeping troops in Iraq is obviously more dangerous than a rapid withdrawal. It is odd to argue that a rapid withdraw would be risky to the lives of troops. Keeping them in Iraq is obviously risky, and particularly if it is extended over many years.
  • The withdrawal of US troops will be welcome and won't be resisted by Iraqis. Why would Iraqis, who want US troops to leave, attack US soldiers that are withdrawing?


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No

  • Honoring the fallen requires that US troops remain to see victory through in Iraq If the United States prematurely withdraws from Iraq, what will the dead have died for? Nothing. The mission that they dedicated their lives to would be considered a failure, and they will have died in vein. US troops presently stationed in Iraq strongly uphold the importance of seeing the mission through as a means to honoring their fallen brothers in arms. These soldiers should not be deprived the opportunity to make worth out of the sacrifices that they have seen their comrades make.
  • US troops want to find meaning in their sacrifices in Iraq by finishing the mission. Living US troops have sacrificed greatly in Iraq. Some have suffered injuries and others simply endure the memories of living in a battle-zone. Many express a strong desire to find meaning in their sacrifice. One typically requires that a sacrifice be for something, a result or an achievement. If the US withdraws prematurely from Iraq and squanders the effort of US soldiers, this meaning will be lost.
  • Many US troops see an on-the-ground need for their continued presence there. Having seen the faces of Iraqis and having become accustomed to the important role US troops play in helping them in their fight to stabilize their country, many US troops reject the notion of withdrawing prematurely; they know that Iraq needs them.
  • A hasty withdrawal from Iraq could risk the lives of coalition troops. Any hasty retreat is risky for troops, as positions are given up, and as some forces remain behind and vulnerable in a staged retreat.
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US Military: Will a continuation of the war irreparably damage the US military?

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Yes

  • Prolonging the Iraq War will permanently damaged the US military "A responsible plan to the end the war in Iraq." 2008, Democratic plan - "Our capacity to respond with overwhelming force has been a powerful deterrent. Our military capabilities and readiness, however, have been deeply damaged by this war. Both our troops and our military equipment have been seriously depleted. Our forces are stretched so thin that we are unprepared to defend our country.6 Many of our best and brightest officers are choosing to leave military service.7 Under the grinding strain of constant wartime use, a dangerously high percentage of our military equipment is damaged, gone, or unavailable to units who might need it.8 Our dependence on private military contractors9 and the politicization of some of the upper echelons of the military compromise the professionalism which had been a hallmark of our forces10. And the nationalization of the state National Guards presents a further threat by hampering our ability to respond to emergencies at home."
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No

  • An early withdrawal from Iraq would be highly risky to exiting troops. Retired Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, a former commandant of the Army War College, told National Journal in 2007 - "There's an old military adage that the most dangerous and hazardous of all military maneuvers is a withdrawal of forces while in contact with the enemy. That's the operation all of us soldiers fear the most,"[17]


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Costs: Would withdrawing from Iraq significantly aid the US economy?

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Yes

  • War in Iraq is a cause of US economic recession "A responsible plan to the end the war in Iraq." 2007, Democratic plan - "Economic costs. The Iraq War has cost U.S. taxpayers a staggering $526 billion so far15 in direct costs, and roughly $1.3 trillion to the economy so far. That’s $16,500 for each U.S. family of four, or roughly $3 billion for each Congressional district in the country. The full economic cost of the war is estimated to be $3 trillion. As the U.S. economy spirals into recession, the economic impact of the war is both a clear contributor and a factor crippling our ability to respond."
  • Withdrawing from Iraq would provide a needed stimulus to the US economy. An associated press/ipsos poll revealed a majority of Americans to be convinced that the most reasonable "stimulus" for the U.S. economy would be withdrawal from Iraq. A total of 68 percent of those polled believed such a move would help the economy.[18]


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No

  • Deficit spending in Iraq is not what is causing the economy to recede in the status quo - rather, basic economic principles dictate that in a time of recession, deficit spending (like Iraq) actually helps the economy. Furthermore, securing oil resources in the region is key to easing the stagflation in the United States. Because the current inflation occuring in the United States is supply-push or cost-push, the economy is experiencing both a recession and inflation. This supply-push inflation is rooted in transportation costs and the fact that oil is key to producing and manufacturing just about everything the U.S. GDP is composed of. Securing oil is the only way we can save the economy. Prefer specific analysis above unwarranted claims and polls by the public.
  • You cannot put a price on freedom and security. We should be proud that our nations, and their armed forces have risen to the challenge of rebuilding Iraq, and confident that their brave efforts will make the world both safer and freer. It is a shame that other countries have not been willing to share their part of the burden. Apart from our moral commitment to the Iraqi people and the desirability of spreading freedom, it is also in our interest to secure a stable Middle East. Our free society and open economy depends for its prosperity on international peace and stability, so all our futures are threatened if we give in to terrorism in Iraq or elsewhere.


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Congress: Is congress opposed to the war and is the 2002 AUMF insufficient for continuing it?

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Yes

  • The 2002 Congressional war-authorization does not cover the current scope of the Iraq War. The Congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) does not provide authorization for the current War in Iraq. This authorization was, first, based on conducting a war to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein and of WMD, both of which have been accomplished. It did not provide approval for the war as it is currently being conducted, simply because the current course of the war was never a consideration on the minds of any members of the United States Congress; a war whose main effort is now to fight an insurgency, Al Qaeda in Iraq, and to prevent sectarian violence from erupting into Civil War. None of these current roles for the US military were under consideration for the AUMF, which invalidates the use of this bill as stamp of Congressional approval for the continuation of the war. If the President wants the legitimacy of Congressional approval, he should seek a new authorization from Congress to wage the war as it is currently prosecuted.



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No

  • Congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force provides a continued mandate for the war. When Congress passed the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, it provided the president with the authorization to go to war in Iraq. This authorization provided the president with the authority to prosecute the War in Iraq to its conclusion, and it continues to offer this authorization.


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Public will: Is an early withdrawal supported by most Americans?

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Yes

  • The majority of Americans want troops to withdraw from Iraq on a timetable. According to a Rasmussen Report in April of 2008, between 57 percent and 64 percent of Americans want all U.S. troops out of Iraq within a year. This includes all non-combat troops.[19] It is important to note that a majority of the American public has favored an timetable withdrawal from Iraq (within one year) as early a 2005, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll.[20] Sustained public opposition to the war increases the importance of heeding it.


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No

  • Americans are increasingly optimistic about the prospects for success in Iraq. A Pew Research Centre March 2008 poll found that 53 percent of Americans believed "the US will ultimately succeed in achieving its goals", up from 42 per cent six months prior to the poll.[21]
  • The Commander in Chief is given executive authority to prosecute the Iraq War. The Commander in Chief in America is given substantial authority to prosecute wars in the interest of national security. Such national security interests cannot be subjected to a high degree of democratic process as this would jeopardize national security policies that require continuity, as opposed to the discontinuity that can accompany changes in public will and political winds.
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Coalition will: Does the coalition of US allies in Iraq support withdrawal?

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Yes

  • Public opinion in coalition countries is moving strongly in favour of withdrawing forces from Iraq as soon as possible. There is danger in governments running foreign policies which lack a basis of popular support. This is especially true in Britain with its substantial Muslim minority, but almost all the coalition countries are divided on the issue. With Iraq dominating politics and the media, trust in government is lost and it is hard for those in power to press their domestic agendas (e.g. pension savings reform).


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No

  • While publics do want the US to leave, they also express a desire to see a stable Iraq. Citizens expect their government to provide strong leadership, taking difficult decisions and staying the course even in adversity. This explains why the leaders of the USA, UK and Australia have all been returned in elections since 2003. Many of those now calling for the troops to be pulled out supported the war and the aim of securing a free and democratic Iraq, and have now changed their tune for unprincipled, opportunist reasons. We can assure our citizens that our troops will not remain in Iraq a day longer than is necessary. Over the next year we should be able to gradually reduce our forces there as Iraq's own police and army assume more responsibility for security. But the situation on the ground remains unpredictable and it would be wrong to issue a timetable and stick blindly to it.


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Iraqi will: Do Iraqis want the US to leave? Must the US obey?

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Yes


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No

  • Many Iraqis support the continued presence of US forces Sheikh Mahmood Ejemi, head of the Ejmani tribe in Hiyt, believes the improved security could quickly unravel without sufficient US support. - "I advise the Americans to withdraw only when Iraqis can secure and achieve security and have a strong and capable military force to protect the borders and the populace. We need to have a national government that protects Iraqis, not works to isolate and kill them, like it is doing now. We need US support in fighting sectarian militias and al-Qaeda."[22]


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Pro/con bibliography

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Yes

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No



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