Our intervention in Iraq has created a chaotic mess, resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and thousands of American servicemen and women, fomented sectarian tensions to the brink of civil war, created millions of refugees and internally displaced Iraqis, destabilized the region, and undermined the moral, legal and diplomatic credibility of our nation.
This tragedy was perpetrated by the Bush Administration. There is certainly immorality in initiating this tragedy, and even more in continued adherence to the failed policies of this Administration.
Average Americans can see that a centralized, democratic Iraqi government will never emerge from the rubble.
But unfortunately, we now own this mess. Our obligation is to find a way out of the quagmire without precipitating genocide.
A strong, central, nonsectarian Iraqi Government as envisioned by the Bush Administration is clearly a fallacy. Iraqis utilized their new democratic enfranchisement to vote along hard sectarian lines, and the existing government is fractured in reflection of the population. The existing Iraqi government is unable or unwilling to fulfill the American plan. There is no indication that this structure will ever work in Iraq, regardless of how long we maintain a troop presence. In short, American commitment to the Bush plan of a strong, central, nonsectarian Iraqi Government is a senseless waste of American resources and lives. It is immoral.
Good Americans argue that we should withdraw from Iraq NOW. Defunding the war and precipitously withdrawing our troops will unquestionably reduce the loss of lives of Americans, specifically in the short term when compared to the casualties of a continued presence in Iraq. If our concern is uniquely over the lives of American troops now, this option seems direct and appropriate at face value.
Without addressing questions of the geopolitical ramifications of our acute withdrawal from Iraq, an immediate moral question we must face when advocating this strategy is "what will happen to the Iraq we leave behind?"
Perhaps it should be that Iraqis alone face the question of whether to come together as a nation. Perhaps our presence allows them to avoid making difficult choices in forming a state. Acute troop withdrawal would certainly test this hypothesis. However, based on the immediate history of post-Saddam Iraq, this option almost certainly would give rise to Hard Partition. For the past 4 years, Iraq has been dividing along sectarian lines by emigration and internal displacement. Our precipitous withdrawal would almost certainly foment further sectarian segregation, and importantly would likely permit violence escalate to the level of genocide- American troop presence now is the only check to unrestrained sectarian violence.
Hard Partition, in addition to the potential genocide and tragedy of millions of Iraqis being displaced to resettle without protection or assistance, would certainly result in an inequitable distribution of oil resources. Sunnis, who comprise 20% of the Iraqi population, are the dominant majority of only 10% of the oil-bearing lands. Although Kurds and Shiites would likely transition peacefully to independent states, a fall from political domination under the Baathists to an impoverished state is a certain recipe for eternal Sunni discontent. Indeed, a hard-partitioned Sunni state centered in western and north-central Iraq would likely serve as an eternal breeding ground for future Iraq Sunni terrorists.
Thus, in consideration of a precipitous US withdrawal from Iraq, we must address the potential political and humanitarian consequences. Morally, there is no question that if we were concerned about genocide in Bosnia and are concerned about genocide in Darfur, then we must as a nation decide whether we can accept genocide in Iraq.
It is clear that the Bush Plan is a failure. I also argue that in a big way, we are morally obligated to minimize the damage we have done to the world by our failed strategy in Iraq. I believe that precipitous withdrawal from Iraq will result in unfettered genocide and a political restructuring of Iraq that will harm America in the future.
As an alternative to our past failed policies and a likely Hard Partition following acute withdrawal, I believe that Joe Biden has been offering a solution that will end the American involvement in Iraq with the least loss of American and Iraqi lives, and the best-scenario outcome with respect to regional stability and American security: Soft Partition under a weak federal government.
After considering this issue for quite some time, I believe that Joseph Biden's plan seems the most rational approach to end our involvement in Iraq. The 5 central points of Biden's plan are as follows:
- Establish One Iraq, with Three Regions
- Share Oil Revenues
- Convene International Conference, Enforce Regional Non-Aggression Pact
- Responsibly Drawdown US Troops
- Increase Reconstruction Assistance and Create a Jobs Program
Analysis of the Biden Plan
This is partition. It reflects the ongoing segregation of Iraq along sectarian lines, but provides structured mobilization and resettlement of Iraqis under American and Iraq troop protection. It creates semi-autonomous states that would hopefully be free of sectarian violence and permit the 2.5 million emigrated Iraqi refugees (who are mostly middle class and professional) to return and rebuild their lives. A US-brokered revenue and resource sharing plan is critical to ensure Sunni participation. Whether this is achievable is another question, but I believe it is central to any resolution of the Iraq crisis that wants to prevent an eternal Sunni insurgency or terrorist state. This plan calls for continued US presence to manage the partition. Although this is certainly not what most of us tired of the Bush Plan desire, for the reasons I outlined above, I believe it necessary. A change in mission may substantially reduce risk of US casualties during our extended presence. In an analysis of Soft Partition done by the Brooking's Institution (PDF REPORT), present (post-surge drawdown, ~150,000) troop levels would need to be maintained another 12-18 months, followed by substantial drawdown to less than 50,000. The Brookings analysis notes that this solution would likely have substantial UN involvement in crafting the partition and in maintaining security. In short, the Biden Plan is an opportunity to re-involve the international community in resolving the Iraq crisis, with a specific goal, a specific plan, and an ultimate withdrawal of our unilateral troop presence.
We must stop wasting American resources and end the loss of American's lives on ill-considered and futile plans to create a centralized, American-style Democracy in Iraq. Importantly, we must do this as quickly as possible, but with clear consideration of the lives of Iraqis, as well as of America's future foreign and domestic security. I urge that we end the Iraq War, but that we do so in a way that meets our moral obligations to the Iraqi lives we have upended and future generations of Americans who will inherit the world we shape.
This endorsement of Joseph Biden's Iraq plan is not an endorsement of his Presidential candidacy. I respect his service as a Senator as well as his clarity and insight on resolving the Iraq crisis, but I will keep my presidential candidate preference private for the present.