I'm going to join the growing chorus of approval for Bill Richardson's op-ed in the Washington Post today.
Our troops have done everything they were asked to do with courage and professionalism, but they cannot win someone else's civil war. So long as American troops are in Iraq, reconciliation among Iraqi factions is postponed. Leaving forces there enables the Iraqis to delay taking the necessary steps to end the violence. And it prevents us from using diplomacy to bring in other nations to help stabilize and rebuild the country.The only part of this I quibble with is the timeline. My own opinion, after juggling some logistical factors, is that the withdrawal should start now and be timetabled to take about 12 to 14 months. That lets all moveable equipment by removed instead of some being left in place and destroyed, equipment that is needed for other tasks and the public purse wouldn't then need to replace.
The presence of American forces in Iraq weakens us in the war against al-Qaeda. It endows the anti-American propaganda of those who portray us as occupiers plundering Iraq's oil and repressing Muslims. The day we leave, this myth collapses, and the Iraqis will drive foreign jihadists out of their country. Our departure would also enable us to focus on defeating the terrorists who attacked us on Sept. 11, those headquartered along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border -- not in Iraq.
Logistically, it would be possible to withdraw in six to eight months. We moved as many as 240,000 troops into and out of Iraq through Kuwait in as little as a three-month period during major troop rotations. After the Persian Gulf War, we redeployed nearly a half-million troops in a few months. We could redeploy even faster if we negotiated with the Turks to open a route out through Turkey.
As our withdrawal begins, we will gain diplomatic leverage. Iraqis will start seeing us as brokers, not occupiers. Iraq's neighbors will face the reality that if they don't help with stabilization, they will face the consequences of Iraq's collapse -- including even greater refugee flows over their borders and possible war.
The United States can facilitate Iraqi reconciliation and regional cooperation by holding a conference similar to that which brought peace to Bosnia. We will need regional security negotiations among all of Iraq's neighbors and discussions of donations from wealthy nations -- including oil-rich Muslim countries -- to help rebuild Iraq. None of this can happen until we remove the biggest obstacle to diplomacy: the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq.
...It is foolish to think that 20,000 to 75,000 troops could bring peace to Iraq when 160,000 have not. We need to get our troops out of the crossfire in Iraq so that we can defeat the terrorists who attacked us on Sept. 11.
Following on from Richardson's excellent foreign policy article, which we've written about here more than once, it's clear that Richardson is the only foreign policy adult when it comes to presidential candidates. Republican candidates are all battling to get to Cheneyward of their rivals in an attempt to capture their zealot base while the Democratic frontrunners are all almost as hawkish in their positions. There's some doubt over whether they mean those hawkish policies or whether they are all still laboring under the framed illusion that they will lose votes if they risk the GOP - whose policies have been abject failures across the board - calling them names.
I don't do presidential endorsements, but I'm 100% with Dave Schuler on this one, and especially with Mike Reynolds, who writes in Dave's comments:
The party that wants out of Iraq wants the candidate least likely to leave.Go figure.
The party that wants abortion and gay marriage outlawed wants the guy least likely to do either.
If you figure out the mind of the voter you’ll be rich.
Richardson, as many have pointed out, has managed to put his foot in it a few times on domestic issues - but I have no problem with saying (again) that he's the clearest possible pick as SecState for any Democratic cabinet.