Former Vice Presidential contender and Iowa Caucus 2008 frontrunner John Edwards has called for withdrawal in Iraq to begin immediately: "We should take 40,000 combat troops out now."
With Chuck Hagel now calling the Iraq debacle "unwinnable" and "hopeless," I'm sadly inclined to agree. Unless the U.S. is willing to massively scale up our commitment in Iraq, to take the lead in disarming the police and interior ministries' death squads, the sectarian militias, etc., it's time to give up the ghost in Iraq. (Of course, even if there were the political will for such an escalation, it's now clear the U.S. lacks the combat-ready brigades that would be needed for such a job.)
It's ironic, isn't it? We talked such a good game about the Iraqis "standing up," about training police and civil servants. Well, they've stood up alright, but as instruments of vengeance and bloody retribution, worse in many respects than the insurgency they're supposed to be quelling.
Edwards may be right in substance, but he's misleading in his rhetoric. He talks about getting other countries to join us in our fight to save Iraq by removing ourselves as the central player: "There is no chance other countries in the world will help Iraq as long as we are an occupying force."
If he were being honest he would have halted himself mid-sentence. There is no chance other countries in the world will help Iraq. Full stop. Unless, by other countries, he means Iran.
The Bush administration has been given every oportunity to win this war. And they have chosen through pigheaded ideology, at every turn, to pursue a doomed policy. They were given all the rope they ever asked for, and they've made a noose. Ending this war now means ending it badly.
Let's not kid ourselves, John Edwards. France, Germany, Jordan and Turkey aren't going to step into the void we create — at least not as peacekeepers. Turkey might join the bloodshed, however, to crush its own Kurds if they attempt to break away and join Iraqi Kurdistan.
In all likelihood, our withdrawal is going to lead to more bloodshed, more quickly. But unless there's something real our troops can do to prevent Iraq's decent into civil war, not just draw it out day by bloody day, they've got no business sitting there with targets on their chests, the hated referees on the sidelines.