Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Motivations Behind the Iraq Plans

The great debate is on again: When should we leave Iraq? In this corner, we have Barack Obama's 16 month plan. And in this corner, we have John McCain's longer range plan, one that could see a substantial U.S. presence in Iraq for years and basing rights for our children's lifetime and beyond. But really, what are the motivations behind each plan?

For most Americans, the 16 month plan is very seductive. Americans are not a war loving lot despite their willingness to fight for security and liberty. The Long War has been exactly that, and the fatigue in the general populace is palpable.

In addition to fatigue, there is this notion that pulling out now, while Iraq is stabilized, is a chance to make a legitimate claim to victory over the insurgency in Iraq. A quick pull out may very well allow that claim to be staked.

The long range plan proves to be a much more difficult sell. A fatigued public cannot fathom a significant U.S. military presence in Iraq that lasts until 2012 or 2020. Long term military deployments such as this are just not something that Americans have historical experience with.

If you listen to Iraq's Defense Minister, that long range presence is exactly what we will need in order to claim a victory that the history books will recognize. He says that it will be 2012 before Iraq can even handle all of its own internal security, and that it may be 2020 before the country can reliably protect itself from external threats. If his estimates are correct, a 16 month pull out, while possibly giving the U.S. a tenuous claim to victory, would leave the current Iraqi state horribly vulnerable to internal and external calamity.

So which plan is best? Well, the answer just may lay in your motivation. If you have a short term outlook, then getting our troops out of harms way with a veneer of victory is likely the goal. The future of the nation at the crossroads of the Middle East is wrought with peril in this outlook, but it is nothing if not expedient.

On the other hand, if a stable, allied state in the heart of the Middle East is the goal, then there is little choice but to stay until such time that the Iraqi government can successfully provide it's most important service to the Iraqi people: Providing internal and external security for the Iraqi people. Additionally, if Iraq's long term viability and prosperity is a goal, then long range basing rights a la Germany and Japan must be negotiated with the Iraqi government. The presence of a U.S. base(s), while perhaps not always popular, would have a tempering affect on internal Iraqi instability while acting as a very obvious trip wire to deter external threats to the nation.

So when you consider the plans of the competing presidential candidates, ask yourself this: What motivates my support of one plan over another? Do I just want this over because I'm tired of it all, or do I want us to make the effort to do this right so our presence today is appreciated by future generations of Iraqis, not regretted.

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