Editorials such as these require eloquent introductions, but there is nothing eloquent about war or its effects. Faces and bodies are mutilated without compassion. The souls of the dead find no order in senseless bloodshed. Fear, hatred and profiteers still prosper. The United States has been in wars such as that in Iraq before, whether it be the Mexican-American War or the Philippine-American War. We have made tragic mistakes and have failed to learn from them. We can get out of Iraq and here’s how:
Redefine our purpose and the enemy
The United States tiptoes a dangerous political field in Iraq. After the rushed election of last January, the U.S. backed the Shiites, not understanding they would use the U.S. military not only to fight insurgents but also to suppress Sunnis to maintain their newly acquired power.
The U.S. must realize and admit their forces are not really disposing of terrorists so much as fighting patriots who fight for the rule of their own country. This is a major reason efforts to recruit and train Iraqi security forces have failed miserably. The Sunnis and Shiites are on a bulletline to civil war and the U.S. cannot be caught supporting one side. The longer American troops continue to fight alongside the Shiites, the larger the problems between the Shiites and the Sunnis will become.
U.S. troops should turn away from eliminating “terrorists” and toward creating peaceful negotiations between the Shiites and the Sunnis. This is the only way Iraq can possibly stand to govern itself in the near future. Iraqis want peace as much as any other people. As for insurgents, there are already signs the insurgency wants to talk peace and the Bush administration only has to be open to facilitate talks. From there, the U.S. can deal with the more pressing issue of preventing civil war.
Set a limited timeline with gradual withdrawal
To ensure both sides will seriously work toward peace, the United States needs to set a date and timeline for their ultimate withdrawal. During this process U.S. administration must play an active role among leaders of both groups.
Setting a date in months, not years, places pressure on both sides to talk. The Shiites know they cannot defeat the Sunnis without the aid of American troops. Sunnis rightfully want more say in their government and the Shiites fear of collapse will bring both sides to the table to discuss peace, future military arrangements and political details.
Leaders of both groups could work alongside U.S. administration to set a timetable for the removal of U.S. forces to allow for an easy transition. If agreements cannot be reached, the United States will have to follow through and begin removing troops to the detriment of both sides. The U.S. can replace Iraqi dependency with real feelings of political pressure.
The rights of the minority powers must be central to any peace plan. Negotiations can succeed only if more Sunnis are in power. Only then can the United States follow with a gradual removal of U.S. forces from largely populated areas to outer bases to serve more observational and oversight roles and, eventually, to home.
Separating Iraq into separate countries will not work. Political borders will not prevent fighting for resources and such a separation of the Iraqi population will only make it more of a target for foreign invaders.
Collapsing the terrorist haven
The people of Iraq have a distaste for unelected rulers. They didn’t want Saddam, they don’t want the U.S. and they will not want foreign-born terrorists in power. Currently, terrorists and the people of Iraq have a common goal to remove U.S. forces, making it likely that upon withdrawal of U.S. troops, the Iraqi people will turn on terrorists and their role will subside
How the tide turns
Unilateral withdrawal and indefinite occupation are not serious choices, but a negotiated exit strategy with an eye on a skeletal democracy is. Ending the war in Iraq will not be easy. We cannot expect Iraq to have a democracy that took the United States more than 200 years to have.
Currently, the Bush administration is not actively pursuing peace or withdrawal. Only continuous popular pressure from the American public can force President George W. Bush from his dormancy. Already, 62 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Bush is handling the war in Iraq, according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll and that number grows.
Wars end when they are too politically and financially costly to continue. A united American public can increase the pressure to move toward peace. This fall looks to be one of protest and you can do your part for peace by joining in.