November 10, 2005
Avoiding the Big Questions in Iraq
Last week, Senate Democrats infuriated Republicans by forcing a
secret session on whether the administration fudged intelligence
data before invading Iraq. This quarrel may be interesting for historians
and campaign strategists, but it can't repeal the invasion. What
it can do is allow both parties to dodge a more immediate question
that they prefer not to answer: Should we stay in Iraq?
a question Americans are asking themselves, and increasingly,
the division is not between "yes" and "no"
but between "no" and "you've got to be kidding."
A recent CBS News poll found that 50 percent of Americans think
we should leave "as soon as possible," with only 43
percent saying we should stay the course.
of course, refuse to consider the possibility that their leader
has made a hopeless mess of the war. And while many Democrats
say it was a mistake to go into Iraq, very few have the nerve
to say it's also a mistake to stay. The two parties are fighting
about how the war began so they don't have to talk about how it
administration position is that we are building democracy and
training Iraqi police and soldiers to take over the fight against
the insurgents. But our efforts have yielded no progress in the
mark a new low by almost any measure. Last month, American fatalities
totaled 93, the most since January. Insurgents carried out an
average of 100 attacks per day, the most furious pace of the entire
war. Iraqi civilians and security personnel have been dying at
double the rate earlier this year.
of the war complain that the news media fail to report all the
good news about Iraq. But Fox News didn't report much good news
from London when terrorists set off bombs in the subway last summer,
killing 52 people. Iraq suffers the equivalent of a London subway
bombing every day.
steps toward constitutional government in Iraq, but establishing
democracy in a country racked with such turmoil is like planting
pine seedlings during a forest fire -- it's not likely to succeed,
and you may get killed trying.
should we do instead? My preference is to acknowledge that we
don't know how to win the war and bring our troops home, say,
week after next. That makes far more sense than persisting for
another year, or two, or three, at the cost of hundreds of American
lives, before we finally recognize the inevitable.
of the war insist that pulling out will doom Iraq to civil war,
as if it were currently an oasis of tranquility. If the country
fell into civil war, how would we tell the difference? In any
case, it's just as likely that the announcement of our early departure
would force Iraqis to come up with their own antidote for the
and its allies insist we have an obligation to the people of Iraq
to finish what we started, no matter how much American and Iraqi
blood we have to spill. Oddly, though, nobody who favors the war
ever considers expanding the drive for democracy to the central
is missing from this picture?" ask Abigail Fuller and Neil
Wollman, professors at Manchester College in Indiana. "Any
discussion of what the Iraqi people themselves want." They
make a proposal that is long overdue: Give the Iraqi people the
chance to vote on whether coalition forces should stay or go.
takes great pride in midwifing democracy in Iraq. It has certainly
demonstrated that it is possible to carry out mass balloting across
the country, despite the insurgency. But if establishing rule
by the people is our goal, we can hardly justify refusing to give
Iraqis any say on our presence.
insist we have the support of the people there. A recent secret
poll commissioned by the British defense ministry, however, indicates
otherwise. No fewer than 45 percent of those surveyed endorse
insurgent attacks on British and American forces, and 82 percent
are "strongly opposed" to the presence of foreign troops
on Iraqi soil.
Iraqis to express their sentiments in a genuine referendum, rather
than a mere poll, would clarify the issue once and for all, not
to mention giving the United States crucial information about
the value of our mission in Iraq.
there's always the possibility that the Bush administration will
find that neither Americans nor Iraqis support its policy there.
But now is no time for it to give up on democracy.
2005 Creators Syndicate