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Time to get real on Iraq: No need to continue stalemate

Published: October 26, 2007
Section: Opinions

Argentine revolutionary Che Guevera thought that the Vietnam War was the greatest thing since sliced capitalists. He saw costly, pointless, destructive wars against militarily much weaker foes as the bottomless pit into which the American empire would hurl its wealth and resolve to no end. Toward the end of his life, he declared there should be not one but Two, three, many Vietnams. That is the watchword.

Comrade Che has found two unlikely allies: President Bush and Bret Matthew. In his most recent article, Matthew took issue with my claims about Iraq and argued for a continued US presence until the job is done. Instead of simply responding to Matthew point by point, I feel it is necessary to take a broader look at Iraq and the Iraq debate, and take stock of the situation rationally instead of attacking any particular party or ideology.

So far as the American military is concerned, the war is lost. When I say that, I mean that the situation on the ground is such that the insurgent groups are so large, well-funded, well-armed and entrenched that an occupying military power cannot root them out. The troops know this already, by the way. American soldiers are not stupid. They see the situation on the ground far more clearly than the pundits on the Sunday morning talk shows.

Of course, there are those who say that if we cannot win, we should hold on for a stalemate. Part of this argument claims that, compared to other wars, the war in Iraq has been relatively cheap. Since it is considered uncouth to mention Iraqi losses, I will focus on the Americans. I personally dont count a war of choice costing thousands of lives and nearly half a trillion dollars as cheap, but even if you compare it to the Vietnam War, after five years of hostilities fewer than 3,000 American servicemen had been killed, compared to 3,800 for Iraq over the same period.

Some argue that withdrawal from Iraq will cause the nascent Iraqi government to collapse, and ethnic cleansing, civil war, and genocide will break out. All of those things are already happening, right under our noses, and the American military has neither the ability nor the directive to stop them. We cannot harm people by leaving if we cannot protect them by staying.

So what is there to say after such a grim assessment? The good news is that there is plenty of hope, just not for us. Like it or not, the US is going to emerge from Iraq weaker than when it went in. The question is how we can soften the blow.

First, we should do everything we can to make it clear to the Iraqis that they are in control of their own country. This means dismantling or abandoning the enormous military bases we have there, letting them nationalize the oil, and setting a clear timeline for withdrawal of combat forces.

Second, now is the time for humility. We must reach out to all our allies for humanitarian assistance. We should reach out to countries that are not our allies but have an interest in the region namely Iran and Syria and find the middle ground with them. It will hurt our pride more than anything else.

If we as a country can bring ourselves to admit what everyone else has known for years, maybe then this nightmare can end.