Eric Martin, a great and under-read blogger with a real brain, takes on the thorny problems of withdrawal today in a long essay. I heartily recommend it.
Eric points out that withdrawal is now firmly in the national interest:
Some point to the ongoing tragedy and potential for further bloodshed as reasons why we can't disengage, but these concerns - while perhaps well intentioned - fail to comprehend the limitations of our power to rectify the damage we have wrought. We cannot, through force of will or arms, save Iraq from the conflicts embroiling it. The past four-plus years should serve as a useful instructive to anyone that has yet to appreciate this lesson (though history has myriad examples with which to tutor the nonbeliever). The political agendas of the various competing Iraqi factions are separate and opposed to our own in many respects. Other than opportunistic marriages of convenience, we have no allies in Iraq, nor can we force any groups to align with us. For the foreseeable future, the civil wars will play out until the various sides are exhausted enough to view the adoption of political means as preferable, and concession and compromise as necessary. We cannot make that choice for them - and are in fact stoking the violence ourselves.He has a sensible plan on how to effect a complete withdrawal - no residual force - over the course of several months as well as a good outline of what should come next. He concludes:
While we can't save Iraq by staying, we may be able to help by withdrawing. At the very least, we can stop the hemorrhaging of US assets and blood.
All options will lead to violence and suffering for the already beleaguered Iraqi people, and negatively impact our interests - even and especially escalation or simply remaining in Iraq. Some would point to the above suggestions and argue that withdrawal will not compel Iraq's warring factions to pursue peaceful resolution, or get Iraq's neighbors to contribute positively. To the extent those arguments have merit, though, they would apply even if we keep troops in Iraq for the next decade (which could cost upwards of $5-10 trillion dollars and 10,000 more lives). Even if this last gambit fails, we can avoid the economic costs of remaining in Iraq and the enormous strain on our all volunteer army (not to mention the diplomatic costs, blight on our image and distraction from other important foreign and domestic exigencies).I agree with every word he's written. Go read the whole thing.
We must confront the fact that we lack the lever with which to pry victory from the clenched jaws of defeat. With this in mind, we must not make the perfect the enemy of the less calamitous. It is better, in the end, to liquidate our unsound position than to cling to any remnant of this failure for fear of acknowledging what it is.