Foreign Policy prints a piece by military analyst Peter Neumann analyzing the likely outcome of setting a withdrawal date for US military in presence in Iraq. Here’s the crux of his analysis:
If the United States announces a timetable for withdrawal, the only way this grim scenario will not come to pass is if Sunnis and Shiites miraculously learn to trust each other again. That’s becoming more unlikely every day. It’s not as if U.S. policymakers haven’t tried to get both sides to behave responsibly. Time and again, the United States has pleaded with Maliki to confront the sectarian elements within his own government. Time and again, the United States has leaned on Iraq’s Sunni neighbors to convince Iraq’s Sunnis to reject jihadism and throw their lot in with the political process. These efforts are ongoing, but so far, the results have been meager—so meager, in fact, that the U.S. military has begun walling off entire neighborhoods in order to keep Sunnis and Shiites from slaughtering one another.
In their quest to win the policy argument, those who favor heading for the exits in Iraq shouldn’t dismiss as mere political rhetoric the idea that a sectarian blood bath—not reconciliation—is the most likely outcome. Most importantly, though, U.S. political leaders should understand that the game is not over once a withdrawal date is set. On the contrary, getting out of Iraq without unleashing a civil war is likely to be as delicate an operation as getting into the country was in the first place. Let us hope that if the United States does leave, the planning is better this time around.
I’m in favor of withdrawal from Iraq, but I think it’s important not to assume it’s going to make everything better.