Bull in the China Shop

To no one’s surprise, Gen. David Petraeus wants to keep U.S. troops in Iraq at current strength – or given the Bush administration’s facility at "figuring," greater strength – for at least six more months. If you listen more closely, you’ll discover they’re even more "optimistic" – you’ll hear talk of "Our Children’s Children’s War," and even "The Forever War."

Despite Petraeus’ selective testimony, Iraq – even the much-touted Anbar province – is still thoroughly trashed. Despite the fact he had a tank protecting his home, Sheik Abdul Sattar Rishawi was assassinated just nine days after shaking hands with President Bush. Rishawi was founder and linchpin of the "Anbar Awakening" alliance of 25 Anbar tribes purportedly united against "al-Qaeda in Iraq" – which, despite the administration’s emphasis, U.S. intelligence says amounts to no more than 5 percent of so-called insurgents. If he wasn’t safe, who is?

The latest tally suggests that approximately 1.2 million Iraqis out of a prewar population of 27 million have been killed since the beginning of "Shock and Awe." The latest estimates are that an additional 4 million Iraqis have been displaced. That’s about 15 percent of Iraq’s population, equivalent to having about 45 million Americans homeless, with half dispersed to other countries. If you listen carefully, you’ll even hear Bush hedge his rosy claims.

As 1st Lt. Paul Rieckhoff explains, a soldier’s job is to "kill people and break their stuff.” Expecting people with that particular skill-set to fix Iraq is a lot like expecting a bull to fix a china shop. And when that doesn’t work, surge – use a bigger bull. Still not working? Keep the bull in the shop longer!

But as silly as that sounds, we all know we can’t just suddenly withdraw our troops. Nearly all our prospective leaders – except for Ron Paul, Mike Gravel, and Dennis Kucinich – tell us so. And have in the past:

The "Domino Theory": Nixon, Johnson, and Bush from War Made Easy

In the Vietnam era, they called that notion "The Domino Theory." As Nixon claimed of leaving Vietnam, it "would lead to World War Three." So, if we did quickly withdraw our troops, terrible things would happen!

Wouldn’t they?

I could tell you they wouldn’t, but would you believe me if I did? So here are a few people you can believe:

"[A]lmost all fear that Iraq will sink into deeper anarchy if coalition forces leave, endangering the interests of the United States. I felt the same when I handed my post as coalition deputy-governor of Dhi Qar province to my Iraqi successor, Muhammad Abbas, in June 2004. … But when I returned in 2005, I found that Dhi Qar had become one of the most secure provinces in Iraq. Our departure had forced Iraqis to take responsibility. … [T]he real problem is not our tactics but our very presence. … Most Arab Iraqis dislike U.S. troops simply because they are U.S. troops. … Iraqi politicians are far better informed and far more competent than the coalition administrators. … This was demonstrated in late October when leaders in Najaf and Baghdad brought a burgeoning civil war in the city of Amara under control within two days."
– Rory Stewart, Toronto Star online, Nov. 8, 2006

Iraqis agree:

"It’s not that there is a religious war going on in Iraq with religious differences, that now a religious reconciliation will stop it. … It’s based on political reasons, and it’s based on a foreign intervention and foreign occupation. … And this demand [for a timetable for withdrawal] is actually an Iraqi general demand. It doesn’t come just from the Iraqi resistance. It even comes from the Iraqi government, from Sunnis and Shia within the Iraqi government. And it comes from many of Iraq’s neighbors, that if you wanted to work for peace in Iraq, let Iraqis know that the occupation forces are going to leave, so that they will have the space and time to heal their wounds, and they will deal with their problems by themselves."
– Iraqi blogger Raed Jarrar

"Iraq Health Minister Calls for U.S. Handover, Withdrawal From Iraqi Cities: [Ali al-]Shemari also said the violence could be controlled if the U.S. Army left Iraqi cities and handed full control to Iraq. Shemari said: ‘The Army of America didn’t do its job … they tie the hands of my government. They should hand us the power, we are a sovereign country,’ he said."
– Minister Ali al-Shemari, Oct. 23, 2006

Dr. Robert Pape of the University of Chicago is regarded as the world’s reigning expert on suicide terrorism. According to his groundbreaking study, Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, "At bottom, suicide terrorism is a strategy for national liberation from foreign military occupation by a democratic state." Further, claims Pape, "The targets selected by suicide terrorists suggest nationalist, not religious, aims." That is, the people involved in suicide terrorism do it to drive those who are perceived as foreign military occupiers out of their homeland.

Pape’s research goes on to reveal that as soon as an occupation ends, the suicide terrorism ceases. So the notion that leaving Iraq will increase the violence just doesn’t cut it. In fact, according to the British experience in Basra, leaving may reduce violence. A lot:

"When we leave, Basara will become a calmer and less violent place," says British lieutenant colonel

According to British Ministry of Defense spokesperson Lt. Col. Patrick Sanders, then, "over 90 percent of the attacks [in Basra] are against British forces." And, according to British journalist Patrick Cockburn, "even after four years in Basra, the British military controls few parts of the city" and it is "one of the most futile campaigns ever fought by the British army." Further, once we leave, says Sanders, "Basra will become a calmer and less violent place."

So, unlike what we’re doing now, leaving will make things better, not worse. Much better. For almost everyone.

Somebody needs to tell Petraeus, Bush, and the Democrats to cut the bull – bring the troops home. And the quicker the better.

Just do it.