How to get out of Iraq

William S. Lind  is an originator of Fourth Generation War (4GW), authority on military affairs, and a paleoconservative. Forget his politics, his ideas for how the US can get out of Iraq deserve a wide audience.

Lind says
that there needs to be a state in the stateless area that is now Iraq. This would reduces the possibility that non-state players, the real enemy, will have a base to operate in. This can only be done via an indirect approach, because the US no longer has the power to create a state there, and in fact, never did. Therefore, seek a rapprochement with Iran, because any real Iraqi state will be allied with them. Then, let go.  Stop trying to dictate who will run the government in Iraq, even if it ends up being al-Sadr.

Under his leadership, or that of anyone else in Iraq with a shred of legitimacy, a restored Iraqi state will not be a friend of America. Given what we have done to that country, we can hardly expect it to be. But our new strategy has no such unattainable objective. Its objective is solely the restoration of a real state, and that al-Sadr may be able to accomplish.

And if the result includes Sunni-Shia rivalry then, quoting James Kurth,

In the Muslim world there might be Sunni Islamists and Shi’ite Islamists, but each might consider their greatest enemy to be not the United States, but each other.

His final step towards the formation of a state in Iraq is the withdrawal all US troops within 12-18 months. Lind sees this as the best possible way for the US to extricate itself from Iraq. He knows there is no chance the Bush Administration will adopt this strategy but hopes some of the presidential candidates will pick up on it.

If all this could actually happen, the region would be at peace and the US would be gone. Works for me.


  1. Hmm… a solution that tries to minimize the power vacuum. This is a breath of sanity in a national discussion that (until now) has contained little but two opposing (and equally untenable) positions.

    It’s not enough to just pull the troops out– this would guarantee not only continuing war, but (as Lind notes and I have said before) an active enemy of the U.S. with the perfect excuse for a President to continue to eliminate our liberties. “State for the stateless” is key. Then, and only then, can we begin to pull troops out with a reasonably clear conscience and a lower risk of terrorism at home. And yes, at that point, a complete withdrawal in 12-18 months is not unreasonable.

    I’m not certain Al Sadr is the man to lead the new Iraq nation, but he must certainly be a key player in a strong coalition under a more mature leader (like Al Sistani), and might soon be ready to become a national political leader himself. Will he be our friend? Probably not. But as a national leader he’s unlikely to initiate direct conflict with us– much less likely to do so than the non-state operators.

  2. Lind says it’s not up to the US who takes over in Iraq, and the best the US can do is mend fences with Iran and hope a state emerges in Iraq.

    His is an influential voice. Maybe policy makers will actually listen, else it’ll be “victory is just around the corner” until the helicopters are evacuating people off the embassy roof ala Vietnam.

  3. My general premise is that we’ve made matters almost impossible for anybody to do anything in Iraq, and the prospect of a regional war is something that should be seriously considered as a result of the inept American intervention.

    However, I’m in favor of getting out as soon as possible. Clearly no American has any real vision or credibility to carry things off, and the sooner we stop screwing things up, the better.

    I am also convinced that one of the major problems is that the warring parties in Iraq can beat up on each other because the Americans are providing cover for them. Remove the Americans and the militias are going to have to make some tough decisions. Inida and Pakistan survived what I was convinced was going to be a nuclear war; it’s not impossible that, faced with the reality of American withdrawal, the Shiá and Sunni tribes will decide to break bread together. But it ain’t gonna happen while we’re still there.

  4. Ironically (given our current involvements), the Indo-Pak nuclear debacle was narrowly avoided by U.S. diplomatic intervention. Yes, diplomacy does work!

    As to whether there is an American with the cahones to do what needs to be done in Iraq, the answer is yes. Even some of the Pentagon generals have the right idea. But none of these people happen to be running for president.

    The only possible exception I see is Richardson, who (unlike any of the other candidates in either party) has a lot of diplomatic experience and (also unlike any of the others) a well-thought-out position on Iraq. But other than that, we’ve got a piss-poor crop to choose from.

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