Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Staying in Iraq?

Tom Ricks has written extensively about Iraq. He is no idealogue and believes the US invasion was a huge mistake. That said, he is also a realist and believes that since we did invade we have a responsibility to ensure our leaving does not make things worse. In a New York Times op-ed piece today, Ricks expresses deep concern about the current timetable for withdrawal of American forces. He does not expect next month's Iraqi parliamentary elections to go well and fears significant civil strife in the months ahead. Iraq is still at the center of a Near East quagmire which could easily draw in multiple foreign powers if it begins to disintegrate politically. The effect on world oil markets is a nightmare Ricks thinks none of us want to even contemplate.

Bottomline? Come this summer, President Obama could be under considerable pressure to scale back the scheduled US military pull out. Ricks thinks he should heed that pressure and, in fact, the US should plan to leave 30-50,000 troops in Iraq indefinitely (given all the support personel needed, that's about the minimum necessary to have an effective force). He thinks Americans will understand this is a mess of our making and will give Obama the political leeway to go back on his promise to get the US out of Iraq. Is Ricks right? Do we really care enough anymore about Iraq to pay this price? Can we afford to?

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