Iraq: the field of opinion

the field of opinion

On one point almost all military advisors and political thinkers agree: leaving Iraq would be a disaster. At best, there would be increased bloodshed in Iraq, at worst a withdrawal from Iraq would result in a prolonged civil war, genocide, a regional war and a boost for international terrorism.

What there's less agreement on is what the heck the US can do about it. Some say the situation in Iraq is beyond hope and that the US staying is only drawing out the inevitable, while keeping us from moving on to other international priorities. Those who agree that the US still has a small window of opportunity to turn things around in Iraq, disagree on what our strategy should be.

Two plans

  • The Iraq Study Group, with a star-studded cast of diplomats and political leaders, recommended a delicate recipe of political reconciliation, increased efforts to train Iraqi troops and international diplomacy - at the same time as easing the US out of Iraq.

  • President Bush is pinning his hopes on a small surge in troops in Baghdad, betting that it will buy enough security to give Iraqi leaders time to pull their political selves together.

Critiques of the Iraq Study Group

  • The International Crisis Group says th ISG underestimates the political mess in Iraq and that the political process needs to start from scratch. It also says the US needs to go much farther to engage Iraq's neighbors in the process.

  • The Center for Strategic and International Studies, headed by the granddaddy of all national security advisors Anthony Cordesman, offers much critique but not a lot by way of alternate gameplans.

Surge advocates

Diplomatic surge advocates

  • Brent Scowcroft, national security advisor to Bush I, says Bush II needs to put more focus on diplomacy in the region.

  • Wesley Clark agrees, suggesting that the US might also need a deep shift in its diplomatic attitude.

Moving on advocates

  • Fareed Zakaria says Iraq is lost and dwelling on it only keeps us from moving on to other international priorities.

  • Robert Brigham says we need to start negotiating our withdrawal - with Iraq's leaders and its neighbors.

  • Leslie Gelb and Richard Betts say Bush's strategy is more than a plan to drag out a losing war.

  • William Odom explains why the Iraq war could never have been won - and how staying only prolongs the inevitable.

Keep the Shiites strong

  • Part of Bush's plan is to crack down on Shiite militias - a bad idea, according to Reuel Marc Gerect, who says that'll lead to more chaos.

Posted January 19, 2007

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