Saturday, June 27, 2009

Turning Responsibility for Iraq Over to the Iraqis

June 30 is the deadline for American troops to be withdrawn from Iraqi cities so that Iraqi security forces can take control. This process has been underway for several months now and it looks as though the deadline will be met. American forces will be redeployed outside the Iraqi cities, ready to intervene if necessary and beginning to focus instead on training the Iraqis.

With a disturbing rise in violence in recent weeks, some are raising concerns that the American withdrawal from the cities could result in a return to the security situation of years past, when insurgents and ethnic militias engaged in bloody guerrilla warfare, largely characterized by massive suicide bombings. Perhaps so. But if increased violence does take place, it's no longer our problem.

We have occupied Iraq now for six years. For most of that time, we have been training Iraqi security forces and propping up the elected Iraqi government. This effort has cost the lives of thousands of American soldiers. It has also cost American taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. The Iraqis have had a long time to get ready to take over their own security, and we have provided them with more than enough in the way of resources for them to do it.

If violence escalates after the American withdraw, we can only conclude that the cause is not a lack of Iraqi ability, but a lack of Iraqi will. And in that case, we should simply wash our hands of the whole affair.

From the standpoint of a 21st Century Jeffersonian, the invasion of Iraq was a foolish and utterly misguided mistake from the beginning. Unnecessary wars are not acceptable under any circumstances, and it should have been completely clear that Iraq posed no threat to the United States. More fundamentally, meddling in the affairs of other countries is almost always a recipe for disaster, and the convoluted mix of religion and politics in the Middle East make this particular part of the world especially dangerous. Were Jefferson alive today, he would certainly advise us to have as little to do with the Middle East as possible.

Jefferson would have wholeheartedly approved of President Obama's determination to extricate the United States from Iraq as soon as reasonably possible. We have given the Iraqis the tools to secure their own country. Whether or not they do so is up to them. Meanwhile, it's time for us to bring our troops home.

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