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Ask Auntie Pinko
May 20, 2004

Dear Auntie Pinko,

NOW is it time for us to get out of Iraq?

Yellow Springs, OH

Dear Anthea,

Until very recently, Auntie Pinko was firmly in the "you break it, you buy it," opinion camp. We entered into a war of choice in Iraq that resulted in the destruction of a good deal of that country's crucial infrastructure. The war and its consequences virtually shut down the economy there, and left them without the resources to rebuild on their own. No matter how justified we may have been in ousting a bloodthirsty murderer from power, that was no excuse for simply walking away and leaving the mess we made.

This is not to say that I approve of the idea of engaging in unprovoked, virtually unilateral 'preemptive' war on the grounds of eliminating bloodthirsty dictators from power. There are simply too many of them, and deciding which ones are 'more worthy' of removal, and/or which ones should be removed 'first,' makes my stomach a bit queasy. The ambiguity of rushing to "free" the people groaning under the oppression of a dictator in a state rich in natural resources and/or strategic importance to the United States, versus ignoring the pain and suffering of those whose state happens to be poor and geopolitically insignificant to us, does not paint a pretty moral picture of the United States.

At this point, that kind of ugly self-interested realpolitik would be less than helpful to our larger aims in the world.

However, even if you accept the figleaf of undoubted moral justification for ousting Saddam Hussein as an excuse for invading Iraq, the notion that we are doing the Iraqi people any kind of favor at all by remaining in their country - no matter how diligently our military forces and private contractors are trying to reconstruct roads, schools, hospitals, power stations, etc. - is getting a bit threadbare.

When our very presence there provides evil and power-hungry factions with an excuse to advance their agendas and perpetuate violence and chaos, it's time to re-examine. Especially since our own horrific mistakes have added far more power to that excuse than any faction leader could possibly manage on their own.

Does that mean we should cut and run? Quit pouring money down a rat hole? Let the Iraqis stew in the chaos that some of them have tried so hard to continue?

Certainly not. Our responsibility remains; we must simply find other ways to fulfill it. Some of those ways might be difficult or painful; they might carry price tags that we have been reluctant to pay until now. We might have to engage overall diplomatic concessions with the more peaceful and stable nations of the region to form a peacekeeping and rebuilding coalition. Not an easy task and it would probably involve putting pressure on Israel-a concept that makes many of our elected officials very skittish.

We might have to put some of our military forces under the command of the United Nations, something that is very difficult for many Americans (including the officers and troops of those same military forces) to contemplate. We might also have to pledge large cash allocations and economic concessions to the rebuilding process. We might have to watch lucrative contracts go to providers from other nations. All painful prospects, to say the least.

I am still not entirely certain what this means regarding "getting out of Iraq." The situation is changing too rapidly - and unfortunately the changes all seem to be on the side of entropy. But I am willing to examine the hypothesis that we might have reached the point where our continued presence - no matter how well-intentioned, amply funded, and hardworking - might be more of a liability than an asset to Iraq's recovery.

I hope that America's journalists, scholars, and statesmen will examine this question in detail, and that the media will cover all the viewpoints and discussions thoroughly and as objectively as possible. I'm willing to admit to some uncertainty right now, and more information - especially from sources not primarily motivated by partisan agendas from either side of the aisle - would be useful.

Sorry I couldn't be more definite, Anthea, and thanks for asking Auntie Pinko!

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