Saturday, November 11, 2006

How to End a War

There has been much talk lately about the new course for the U.S. in Iraq, and everyone seems to agree on two things. One, the U.S. is not seeking to establish a permanent presence in Iraq. Two, there are certain conditions which must be met before the U.S. can leave Iraq. I would like to suggest that these are contradictory positions and that both cannot be true. My inclination is to believe that the first is a pretext - why invade a country if you don't plan to stay? - but let's proceed for a moment as if the first is true and focus on the second. Supposedly we are perfectly willing to leave Iraq but only after certain conditions are met, which alone would constitute a victorious withdrawal and not a defeat. The condition which is most often cited is an end to the violence in Iraq, which is always described as establishing security there in the form of an effective national government. This condition has always struck me as illogical. First, why would we want to train and equip a national Iraqi army, which would surely exact violent revenge against the Sunni insurgency and simply increase the violence? Secondly, why would we leave Iraq only after pacifying the insurgency? Once it's been crushed and Iraq has been restored to conditions conducive to our presence, why would we leave? If our real goal is to end the violence in Iraq, so that we can leave, why don't we just leave? Wouldn't that, eo ipso, end the violence, at least the part of the insurgency which is directed towards us? Imagine for a moment that a bouncer and a bar patron are fighting in a bar. The bouncer is trying to throw the patron out. The patron is trying to stay, all the while yelling at the bouncer that he is trying to leave and would have done so from the beginning if only the bouncer had not tried to throw him out. The incoherent position that the war must end before we can stop fighting it is a conceit worthy of Kubrick. There's only one way to end a war. And that's to stop fighting it.

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