Only a few days after calling for a major disengagement from Afghanistan, George Will is out with a new column arguing that the United States should accelerate it’s withdrawal from Iraq:
Since U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq’s cities, two months have passed, and so has the illusion that Iraq is smoothly transitioning to a normality free of sectarian violence. Recently, Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of U.S. troops there, “blanched” when asked if the war is “functionally over.” According to The Post’s Greg Jaffe, Odierno said:
“There are still civilians being killed in Iraq. We still have people that are attempting to attack the new Iraqi order and the move towards democracy and a more open economy. So we still have some work to do.”
No, we don’t, even if, as Jaffe reports, the presence of 130,000 U.S. troops “serves as a check on Iraqi military and political leaders’ baser and more sectarian instincts.” After almost 6 1/2 years, and 4,327 American dead and 31,483 wounded, with a war spiraling downward in Afghanistan, it would be indefensible for the U.S. military — overextended and in need of materiel repair and mental recuperation — to loiter in Iraq to improve the instincts of corrupt elites. If there is a worse use of the U.S. military than “nation-building,” it is adult supervision and behavior modification of other peoples’ politicians.
Moreover, as Will points, out we’re already on a withdrawal timetable that will end American combat operations in 360 days have all American forces out of the country in 848 days, the question is why we need to wait that long:
The advisers are to leave by the end of 2011, by which time the final two years of the U.S. military presence will have achieved . . . what? Already that presence is irrelevant to the rising chaos, which the Iraqi government can neither contain nor refrain from participating in: Security forces seem to have been involved in the recent robbery of a state-run bank in central Baghdad.
Post columnist David Ignatius correctly argues that “without the backstop of U.S. support,” Iraq is “desperately vulnerable” to Iranian pressure. He also reports, however, that an Iraqi intelligence official says Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s links with Iran are so close that he “uses an Iranian jet with an Iranian crew for his official travel.” Whenever U.S. forces leave, Iran will still be Iraq’s neighbor.
The longer that American troops say in Iraq, the more likely it is that they become a convenient target for someone wanting to score points in an internal Iraqi political battle, or for outside forces influenced by Iran. We’re not going to turn the Iraqis into 21st Century versions of the Founding Fathers by the point of a gun. More importantly, we simply cannot afford a long-term, large-scale military commitment in Iraq, especially when it’s clear that there are other areas of the world ranging from Afghanistan to North Korea to the Korean Peninsula that are likely to require our attention over the coming years.
Bring the troops home.