Are we looking to cut and run in Iraq? That’s what General George Casey, our commander in Iraq, seems to be saying. I think the administration is floating this as a trial balloon to see how people react. If the response is negative, they can always disown the general’s words. If there’s not a big blowback, I expect that we’ll soon be hearing about plans to ditch the country.
It would fit with our general approach, which has been to pretend everything is going swimmingly and stick to our imaginary timetables as if the prewar fantasies about flowers in the streets had actually come true. We pushed forward with the invasion, the occupation, the disbanding of the Iraqi army, the handover of sovereignty, the election. We’re pushing hard to get the constitution done on time. Why not declare victory and leave once that’s done? Sure, there will still be an insurgency, but “freedom is messy,” and it won’t be our problem anymore.
The polls show that the majority of Americans are not confident we’ll win in Iraq, and a majority now — finally — believe the government intentionally misled the public on Saddam’s WMD. There’s a certain sentiment that we should see this thing through, but I don’t think that feeling is strong enough to create any serious resistance to a pullout, in stages, while the White House keeps saying everything is going according to plan. Democrats will mount half-hearted complaints and scold the president, but they know their constituents never wanted the war in the first place.
And despite the evident awfulness of invading a place, creating total chaos and then leaving it to wallow in miserable violence, I’m not sure our hanging around will do much good either. Stay the course? What course? It’s not like we’re winning. I worry that what seems like the ethical approach — cleaning up our own mess — may in fact be something like the ethical approach taken by Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon in Vietnam, where they couldn’t see any decent way to ditch the allies to whom we’d promised protection and victory. So we spent an unnecessary six years bombing the hell out of Vietnam and widening the war to Laos and Cambodia and tearing American society apart before finally leaving our allies behind anyway.
So, is it time to cut and run in Iraq? I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.