Thoughts on Iraq
Right now, many left-wing bloggers are calling for a withdrawal from Iraq. There are some compelling arguments for this. The probability of us attaining our "goal" of creating a liberal democracy in Iraq, or even any semblance of an Iraqi Republic, are essentially null. Meanwhile, as the resistance movement keeps gaining ground, Iraq is becoming increasingly ungovernable and dangerous for our troops. These attacks are getting increasingly deadly and bold. Despite the President's rhetoric, acts of desperation
do not include attempts on Wolfowitz's life
But should we back out? I'm reluctant to say so.
So an Iraqi democracy is unlikely, to say the least. What should be our strategic aim in Iraq? I would say we have a vested interest in regional stability, for reasons I believe are self-evident. If for no other reason, the proximity Iraq has to Turkey should be enough for us to need to keep the region stable. Turkey is the link country between Europe and the Arab Peninsula, and therefore is important to diplomatic relations with Islamic nations.
So what's a worst case scenario if we leave Iraq right now? A civil war could ravage the nation. Now, at the risk of over-simplification, I would guess a civil war in Iraq would revolve around three competing groups: Shi'ites, Ba'athists and Kurds. These are the groups that appear to have the greatest political and strategic interest in the area. This lends itself to four essential possibilities:
The first is that the three groups maintain a general balance of power, and thus remain in conflict indefinitely. This would leave Iraq in a chaos similar to Afghanistan. This would have two downsides: the first is it would further damage the international image of the US, and second it would mean Iran would border to the east and west of regions that are suffering a power vacuum, and they may take advantage. The extent that they take advantage may have very little effect, or it may create an international incident. As Iran is the geographic link between the Arab Peninsula and Central Asia, this could have profound effects on the general politics of all Islamic nations.
The second and third possibilities are essentially similar, that the Shi'ites take control, and would thus form an alliance with the fundamentalists in Iran, or the Ba'athists take control, leaving us where we began before the invasion of Iraq, only with more anger against the United States. As bad as these possibilities may be, I don't think they're as bad as the fourth possibility, that the Kurds gain the upper hand.
Why would this fourth possibility be detrimental? Simple, Iran and Turkey have a vested interest in keeping the Kurds down in their respective countries. A Kurdish controlled Iraq could help stir Kurdish revolution in Iran and Turkey. As such, if the Kurds seem like they're in a position to take Iraq, we'll likely see Iran and Turkey getting involved. Iran would definitely not take the side of the Ba'athists, so they would give they're support to the Shi'ites. Then the question would be, do the Turks trust the Iranians enough to band with them to accomplish they're common goal and thus also give support to the Shi'ites? Or do they distrust the Iranians so much they would give support to the Ba'athists?
The second possibility above would mean the civil war in Iraq would turn into a war between Iran and Turkey. As I said, Turkey is of immense strategic importance to us, and we'd likely have to intervene in Turkey's side if things get too dicey. Once again, I believe it's self-evident why this would be detrimental to our general safety.
So, what should we do? We need an actually international coalition in charge of Iraq. America should divest much of it's power in Iraq to the UN to ensure international support, and hopefully be able to keep the region stable enough so that leaving Iraq wouldn't bring about civil war. I fear the current administration's arrogance will not allow this to occur, though.