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Iraq Withdrawal Debate This Weekend

Simon W. Moon

DP Veteran
Apr 20, 2005
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Here's an Army War College monograph that I've not examined yet. I propose a debate beginning this weekend 2005-12-03 (or you can start earlier if you like) based on it's contents.

From the foreword:
The questions of how to empower the Iraqis most effectively and then progressively withdraw non-Iraqi forces from that country is a complex issue that often has been oversimplified in many of the current media debates. Often, political commentators of various stripes reduce complex arguments and multidimensional planning problems to simple slogans suggesting that victory is either inevitable or impossible. Under these circumstances, there are too few serious discussions of problems, opportunities, and meaningful precedents that might be useful in developing guidelines and considerations for U.S. policy in Iraq. In this monograph, Drs. W. Andrew Terrill and Conrad C. Crane seek to present the U.S. situation in Iraq in all of its complexity and ambiguity, with policy recommendations for how that withdrawal strategy might be most effectively implemented.​

From the Synopsis:
They consider previous instances of U.S. military occupation of foreign countries and the difficulty of maintaining domestic support for such operations. The authors view the empowerment of a viable Iraqi central government and a security force to defend its authority as vital to the future of that country, but also suggest that there are severe constraints on the potential for the United States to sustain its military presence in that country at the current level. They conclude that the United States must be prepared to withdraw from Iraq under non-optimal conditions and that the chief U.S. goals should be to devise an exit strategy for Iraq that focuses on bolstering Iraqi government legitimacy even if this does not involve creating a Western style democracy. The authors strongly reject the idea withdrawing from Iraq by the use of a formal timetable, and call for the U.S. to continue its policy of renouncing permanent Iraqi bases.​

All I ask is that you read the piece and begin your debate based upon its contents. Of course, bring in any other relevant information etc.

I won't be done w/ it until this weekend, but you may proceed at you own pace of course.

Who's with me? Sign up below. Any post w/ the mandatory minimum ten characters will be sufficient.
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I'll look forward to participation in the debate. I will need at least until the weekend to get through this document. I suspect that just looking at the outline of this document, it will support some of my key convictions about a withdrawal strategy. For the purposes of this debate, I will leave my partisan hat at home, at least until a partisan storm is hatched. The sad fact is that the right tried to label a withdrawal plan as cut and run. Now they too are proposing a cut and run stategy...at least it would be cut and run in their black and white world.


at least 10 characters
We can't stay, we can't leave and we can't fail.

Well, I guess it's just you and me.

After reading it and taking some notes, I decided to have an opinion about the matter. I'm still tracking down links for the footnotes that I found relevant and I've put the five books I could find on hold at my local library. I'm going to get those today and record the relevant excerpts. There're a couple of items that I'm going to have to do some tricky maneuvering to get. One is available on line for $18. I'm sure there's way to get at this from through a public or university library. The other is available online in Arabic. I know several folks who speak Arabic, but I've no heart to bug them to translate it for me. It's also available already translated through the FBIS, but I"ve not found a way to gain access to that either.

I think that the authors did a good job of making the case that in Iraq, "We can't stay, we can't leave and we can't fail."

Anyway, I've decided that we should establish setS of concrete, objective, and definite milestones that would allow the US to leave. The milestones must be concrete, objective, and definite. They cannot be merely vague politico-talk. There's too much at stake for subjectivity and posturing for domestic political consumption to be allowed a say.

One set would things that would be indicators of sufficient legitimacy for the Iraqi govt for it to survive. Legitimacy was and has been the big issue for the Iraqi govt. Legitimacy cannot be bought nor can it be produced from force.
The lack of legitimacy is what is staying the hand of the major multinational petro companies from investing in Iraq.
W/o legitimacy, the Iraqi forces won't be willing to lay down their lives in defense of the govt. If the Iraqi forces won't step up for their govt, it will fail. The relative instability of the recent governing bodies of Iraq and the as yet undetermined nature of the eventual permanent (hopefully) govt of Iraq leaves folks wondering if what they're being asked to fight for is worth risking their lives and doing the very hard work of belonging to the Iraqi armed forces. Given the high levels of unemployment lots of folks want to sign up to get a paycheck. And granted, the mere act of waiting in line to sign up is a life risking venture, but there, one risks it for one's wife and children. As the monographs details there're instances where the ostensibly prepared Iraqi armed forces were tested and found wanting, deserting en masse.
page 32 (40 of 68)
... November 2004, 4,000 out of about 5,400* Iraqi police in Mosul deserted the force in response to an insurgent uprising within the city.130
[*AFAICT, this is mistaken. The article says 75% of 4,000, not 75% = 4,000. So it should be that 3,000 of 4,000 deserted.]
The Iraqis weren't defeated in the regular sense of the word, they just up and left, in some cases even abandoning their equipment, apparently because it wasn't worth it to them to stay and fight under the conditions that prevailed at the time.

It's of course more involved than that, but that's the cereal box version.

The second set of concrete, objective, and definite milestones would be for what would constitute an an irretrievable loss - time to throw in the towel. As distasteful as some folk will undoubted find even discussing this possibility, it's a real possibility that must be considered. There're numerous realpolitik reasons why we can't stay forever. So, if it becomes clear that our presence is not going to better the situation, then there's no national interest to be served by throwing good after bad. We have to have a realistic (not idealistic) picture of what conditions would entail choosing to say, "So long and good luck," so that we will know whether to go or stay.

The first set of milestones should be made clear to the American public, the Iraqi govt and electorate, and the entirety of the world community. We should also establish conservative, low-ball ETAs for the milestones. The estimates should allow for much to go wrong. I part some of these ETAs will be based on the second set of milestones that mark the point of diminishing returns for the major US military presence in Iraq. If we come in ahead of schedule we look great. If we meet schedule we look good. If we can't meet the schedule, it means that more things went wrong than we could anticipate.

More later.
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