I shudder to contemplate genocide in Iraq or even wide-scale sectarian/ethnic war, and the possibility of regional instability is not something to be taken lightly. So there are valid concerns about our withdrawal on national interest and purely ethical terms. But I wonder what we could do to stop such a war if it actually broke out. In 2006-2007, we were not able to halt the civil war; many Iraqis believe we simply sat on the sidelines and dealt with the consequences once the sectarian fighting had sorted things out for us. Would we be able to exert our will in the future with decreased troop numbers? I have serious doubts on that front.
Fair enough. Let’s for the sake of argument say that even if it would save lives, an open-ended military commitment is ultimately unwise because it’s costly and it’s bad for everybody. Surely, then, the U.S. must be helping Iraq in some other way? Trying to facilitate refugee return? Speeding up reconstruction? Working with the UN to solve the Kirkuk problem? Making sure that when American troops depart, an international effort to stave off another civil war will kick in? You know, as in “when we stand down, they will stand up”?
That’s right, I’m being facetious. And the reason is that while I can see a strategy for a military pullout, I don’t see any sign of a “civilian surge”, or, in fact, anything resembling a concerted effort to give Iraq a hand. Maybe it’s because after the U.S. military re-made itself into a soft power counterinsurgency force in 2007 and basically took over post-conflict clean-up duties from the civilians, no one thought to come up with a plan for what to do when the soldiers eventually leave.
Or maybe there is such a plan, we just haven’t seen it yet.