A few weeks after the House and Senate passed strongly-worded statements that the US will not abandon Iraq, The Washington Post finds that many Republican lawmakers are starting to go wobbly, including Minnesota’s own Gil Gutknecht.
In some ways, this isn’t all that surprising. The situation in Iraq is bad. Very bad. It isn’t civil war (yet), but in fact something worse: anarchy. The al-Maliki government can’t secure Baghdad. They can’t reign in the Shi’ite militias, and they can’t seem to stop the violence. All the progress that has been made in Iraq is threatened by the absolutely intolerable security situation. The plan in Iraq for us to step down as the Iraqis step up is being made exceptionally difficult as the violence unravels Iraq’s already-fragile civil society.
Real, demonstrable progress must be made. Soon.
We cannot pull out, but sooner or later something will have to be done to ensure that the Iraqi people are safe from this constant attack. Changing stategies may work – instead of securing all of Baghdad, secure the city neighborhood by neighborhood. Find the criminals and deal with them – and if that means cracking down even brutally against militias, then now is the time to be brutal. That means anyone who is using terrorism for their ends – even members of the government – should be stopped through whatever means are necessary. The political progress is being undermined from within. Iraq has made progress in many areas, but now we’re seeing a backslide into anarchy that threatens to undo all of the advancements made in recent months.
Ultimately, it is up to the Iraqi people to stop the violence and combat the militias. We can train and equip them, but we can’t fight for them now. Sooner or later the political will to stay in Iraq will run out – that is the way of feckless politicians. If the Iraqis can’t defend themselves by then, Iraq could shatter with disastrous consequences. The Iraqis must stand up united against the militias, or Iraq will face ruin.
Iraq can do this. We can help them to do so. But we can’t do it if we’re speaking the language of defeat. The people of Iraq are counting on us to finish what we started and ensure that Iraq is not left in chaos. Now is a time of trial, but those who go wobbly during such times threaten everything – the anarchy in Iraq is not intractable unless we allow it to become so.