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Essay on US Withdrawal from Iraq

| November 11, 2012 | 0 Comments

The Bush administration entered the United States in an armed intervention of Iraq, a war that leading scholars deemed “unnecessary” at the time (Mearsheimer and Walt, 2003). Under the false pretext of a crisis for America’s national security, and international peace and security in general, because of the perceived threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction – that were never uncovered  – the President decided that armed intervention was the best choice of action. With the failure to prove any significant WMD were in Iraq, the program of the war was conveniently shifted to delivering the Iraqi people from an evil ruler to democratic order. This process of deliverance, at best a “stalemate” (Posen, 2006), has seen an alarming loss of American lives and increasing expense of the American commitment in Iraq, while putting severe pressures on the American economy. At this point, the United States should look for an exit strategy that totally withdrawals American troops from Iraq.

At this point, it must be clearly understood that the recommendation for American withdrawal is not being made on the grounds that going to war was itself a bad decision on the part of the Bush administration. Instead, the reasons for a fast and total withdrawal are being made on the basis of America’s long term national interests, and the lives of our troops. As Posen maintains, the reduction of military, economic and political costs this shall entail could then be used to good effect elsewhere (2006). The war in Iraq has resulted in thousands of American lives lost, and played part in destroying our economy.

There still remains a difference of opinions between the Democratic and Republican parties on this matter, with the Democrats favoring a more rapid withdrawal and the Republicans making withdrawals contingent upon certain conditions. To elaborate, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had spoken of a strategy that would help with an expedition of troops and the employment of a “new diplomatic initiative” (quoted at America.Gov) asking other countries to help in Iraqs reconstruction. President Obama is still pushing for American troop withdrawal from Iraq, pulling two brigades out every month and providing $2 billion in humanitarian aid to the war-ravaged country (America.Gov). Finally, the Republican position on the matter, Sen. John McCain, remains that the training and development of Iraqi soldiers is vital to an American withdrawal; unless Iraq’s security forces become stronger, the country shall be mired in civil war and fall prey to the devices of the al Qaeda, deeming the United States’ exit impossible (America.Gov). From these contrary positions, it is clear that this debate is fiercely contested.


One of the strongest cases against withdrawing is that it could lead to Iraq going into a civil war. However, a closer inspection reveals that the conditions of civil war are already in existence; with the Baath party’s banned and the advantages of fundamentalist Islamists due to the war has led to a situation of civil war. The continued presence of American troops and counter-insurgency operations has been unable to stop this situation, where insurgents target civilians and Iraqis kill Iraqis, all the while putting American troop’s lives at risk. The civil war has already begun to some degree, and there is no point in continuing American engagement in Iraq.

Another important argument against withdrawal, in line with Sen. McCain’s reasoning, is that American forces must only leave Iraq after ensuring that Iraq’s security forces are competent enough to maintain order. The progress for Iraqi security forces is slow and has a long way to go. Continued American presence only makes things worse, because Iraqi politicians do not feel compelled to resolve Iraq’s issues and poor attempts at making improvement, have given the US existing cover. All this has done, is produce a culture that is dependent on American assistance which, the more it continues, can only be harmful to Iraq in the long term.

Some suggest a time-bound withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. Others argue that an American exit from Iraq at this moment would increase the growing influence of terrorists in the country, while severely undermining the stature of the United States in the eyes of the world. However, this is far from the truth. Firstly, the point about terrorists is a double-edged sword and is a risk that must be taken. While a withdrawal may indeed give some power to the terrorists in Iraq, it is important to note that the continued American presence has given the al Qaeda a reason to continue attacks on America troops . In fact, pulling out of Iraq may encourage the Sunnis to take the offensive to the al Qaeda and its sympathizers (Posen, 2006).

Secondly, it is foolish to expect that an American withdrawal can change things, to any considerable degree. As William Welch argues, this image of the mighty U.S was already in question once it launched an unwarranted preventive war, and got further tainted when it delayed the involvement of the United Nations and other willing countries to aid of the reconstruction of Iraq. In addition, recent studies argue that the moral backbone of the US, which promotes the pursuits of democracy and liberation of other countries as ethical responsibilities, is in itself very narrow-minded (Welch, 2010). Instead of worrying about the U.S’ credibility over withdrawing from Iraq, it may, in fact, strengthen the U.S image somewhat.

Finally, another important – but shaky – argument against withdrawal is that a rapid exit after such a long battle would severely demoralize the American troops. However, as Lt. Gen. William E. Odom observes, nothing could be farther from the truth:

“Hiding behind the argument of troop morale shows no willingness to accept the responsibilities of command. The truth is, most wars would stop early if soldiers had the choice of whether or not to continue. This is certainly true in Iraq, where a withdrawal is likely to raise morale among U.S. forces.” (2006)

Thus, it is safe to say that the opposing arguments of American troops’ withdrawal do not hold much weight. But, it must be remembered that the case for a well-planned exit strategy does not only rest on this negation of contrary arguments. It is also supplied with the important

consideration of America’s best interests; these are what we must now investigate to insure the withdrawal.

America’s key interest in the Persian Gulf region is that of oil, although contrary to popular belief, the interest is not of control, but of ensuring a regular supply from the Middle East to the United States; also making sure that political adversaries do not gain control of these resources to the detriment of the US and other areas of the world dependent on energy supply from the region (Posen, 2006).  Stopping the ties between terrorist organizations and state administrations is also an important issue because“…we have learned from the alliance between al Qaeda and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan that it is unwise to allow terrorists to get a foothold in a sympathetic state from which they can propagandize, recruit, organize, train, and plan in relative security.” (Posen, 2006)

The concerns of oil are shared by many countries and most of them would be willing to contribute to a solution, which could also be done through the U.N. Even if the U.S is required to maintain an active deployment in Iraq due to such a turn, it shall still be many times smaller than its current operations.

Furthermore, the outcome of an Iraqi civil war would, in all probability, be a stalemate – a result most favorable to American national interests (Posen, 2006). The best way to expedite this situation is to pull out of Iraq. The worst possible thing of this stalemate could be an intensification of al Qaeda operations in the Sunni-dominated areas of Iraq; however, as discussed above, this is a contentious issue, and it could very well be the US’ troops themselves which are causing such a calamity.

In conclusion, it is important to look at the more vivid reminders that urge for an American withdrawal from Iraq. The unabated loss of American lives in Iraq, since the launch of the war, ran close to 4,400 deaths in December, 2010; this number is far greater than those resulting from the offensive in Afghanistan, totaling 501 deaths in over seven years (White, 2011). The economic downturn for the US because of the war in Iraq has been immense too, stretching well beyond $900 billion as early as January 2011. In light of these facts, it is increasingly difficult to argue against an American withdrawal from Iraq.

In the best interest of servicing America’s military, political and economic interests, the arguments against withdrawal only seem to justify the continuation of poor policy choices, and it is in the US’ best interests that a plan for military disengagement from Iraq be devised without hesitation or delay.


Works Cited

1.    Posen, Barry. “How to disengage from Iraq in 18 months.”  Boston Review. Jan. 2006. 18 Mar. 2011

2.     America.Gov “Election 2008 Issues” 7 Mar. 2008. 18 Mar. 2011

3.    Mearsheimer, John J. and Walt, Stephen M. “An unnecessary War.” Foreign Policy. Jan. 2003. 18 Mar. 2011

4.    White, Deborah. “Iraq War Facts” 2 Mar. 2011. 19 Mar. 2011

5.    Welch, William M. “Fight a Thousand Battles” USA Today. 2010. 22.Mar.2011

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Category: Free Essays, Politics

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