ABC’s Jake Tapper does what a journalist is supposed to do and asks Senator Harry Reid about what happens to the Iraqi people in the wake of a US withdrawal. Unsurprisingly, Reid doesn’t have an answer for him.
It’s quite disgusting that we have members of both parties acting so cavalierly about the future of the Iraqi people. There are 25 millions men, women, and children in Iraq whose lives would be dramatically effected by the consequences of our actions in letting Iraq go to hell and then failing to live up to our responsibility to pick up the pieces afterwards.
Senator Reid voted to authorize this war. He should not be able to weasel out of the consequences any more than anyone else should. We have a moral obligation to the people of Iraq to put their country on a sustainable path towards peace. To fail to do so is a gross abrogation of our responsibilities to the people of Iraq.
Colin Powell warned the US that we were playing by Pottery Barn rules in Iraq — we break it, we buy it. Right now we’ve got a broken Iraq that can still be fixed, even if the costs are great. It’s taken us years to get a strategy that has a chance of working (even though Gen. Petraeus did it in Tel Afar all the way back in 2005), and we can’t preemptively declare defeat and try to wash our hands of the situation.
The future of Iraq is the 800lbs gorilla sitting in the room, and it’s not going away no matter how hard lawmakers on both sides try to ignore it.
UPDATE: The Washington Post has an incredibly good editorial chiding Democratic lawmakers for their own brand of “wishful thinking” on Iraq:
We agree with Mrs. Clinton that President Bush has been guilty of “wishful thinking” on Iraq. When he was promoting his surge policy at the beginning of this year, we said Iraq’s political leadership was unlikely to accept compromises any time soon. It was predictable, therefore, that Mr. Bush’s benchmarks would not be met and that within a few months the policy he put forward without popular or congressional support would become even more difficult to sustain.
But his wishful thinking can’t excuse, even if it helps explain, the wishful thinking on the other side. Advocates of withdrawal would like to believe that Afghanistan is now a central front in the war on terror but that Iraq is not; believing that doesn’t make it so. They would like to minimize the chances of disaster following a U.S. withdrawal: of full-blown civil war, conflicts spreading beyond Iraq’s borders, or genocide. They would have us believe that someone or something will ride to the rescue: the United Nations, an Islamic peacekeeping force, an invigorated diplomatic process. They like to say that by withdrawing U.S. troops, they will “end the war.”
We have to live in the world of reality, not the world of make-believe in which the UN can ride to the rescue or Syria and Iran would love to help craft a democratic and peaceful Iraq. As tempting as it is to escape on those flights of fancy, it doesn’t help the current situation. Iraq is a mess, but it will be a disaster beyond all comprehension if we leave it in a condition where it will be picked apart by every group seeking some advantage in a fragmented Iraqi state.
As paradoxical as it sounds, withdrawal would be an escalation of the war. It would give the Iraqi Sunnis reason to fear being ethnically cleansed from Iraq, ensuring internecine warfare. It would signal to Iran that they could expand their influence there. It would signal to Turkey that the only way to prevent Kurdish militants from attacking Turkish cities would be to invade Iraqi Kurdistan. It would signal to al-Qaeda that the US is unwilling to fight and can be pushed around.
If withdrawal would bring peace to the region, withdrawal would be the sensible course of action — but no matter how much Democratic lawmakers want to think that the Iraqis would be better off without us, those thoughts are delusional. If we leave, Iraq becomes a bloodbath: not ending the war, but ensuring that the people of Iraq face a level of carnage orders of magnitude beyond anything we’ve seen so far.