This is a plea to American Liberals regarding Iraq.
Like you, I opposed the invasion of Iraq. Like you, I saw through all the lies that the world had been told by the Bush administration. I knew that Iraq probably didn't have any WMDs - and that all the evidence that was cooked up to support it was not reliable at all.
More than that, I also believe, sadly, that the current situation in Iraq is worse than what they have experienced under Saddam. It is clear to me, as it is to you, that the invasion of Iraq by US forces and the removal of the established government has led to anarchy, death and fear. Despite the US presence, terrorists are entering the country now. Such terrorists were not in country during Saddam's rule - but seem to be flourishing under American rule.
Most liberals - that is, most liberals in the blogosphere - are committed to a complete removal of US forces from Iraq. Their - I mean your - argument is simple: America's involvement in Iraq is helping neither America's security nor Iraq's stability.
Nevertheless, I am taking heed of the so called "Liberal Hawk" argument - the one that argues that, no matter how badly America has stuffed things up in Iraq, if American forces withdraw then the situation will get even worse. I'm hardly a "Liberal Hawk" myself, but I can see validity in this argument.
It is often difficult to see the consequences of your actions. America, for whatever reason, is exceptionally good at making such blunders. American leaders (including Bush and his Neo-con friends) thought that the Iraqi people would welcome them with flowers and candy. Such an expectation was wrong - dead wrong. The consequences of America's invasion and occupation of Iraq has been one of utter misery for the Iraqi people.
But it needs to be pointed out that such a blunder is something that afflicts all Americans - including liberals. What would be the consequences of American forces leaving? There is only one reasonable answer to this: Civil War.
"Ah" I hear someone say "But isn't civil war occurring right now?" That is true. Nevertheless, it needs to be pointed out that if American forces leave, the civil war will get worse - much worse.
Every second day there is a car bomb or suicide bombing in Iraq that makes headlines. 20-30 more Iraqis dead. Will such actions stop once American forces have left? I don't think so. The Iraqi police and army are not able to cope by themselves.
If civil war does occur, we can expect even more dead Iraqis than there are now. Without any ability to keep the rule of law, the Kurds will establish their own national identity. This will naturally intensify war between Kurds and Sunnis. Moreover, the Shiites would also be likely to form their own nation - maybe even allowing Iran to expand their borders by becoming an Iranian province. This, in turn, will lead to even more violence against the Sunnis.
Do we really want this situation? I know it is easy to argue and argue and argue for the removal of US troops, but do you really want Riverbend, a Sunni, to be killed?
Try to look into the future. If you American liberals get their way on this issue, even more Iraqis may potentially die. Do you really want this on your conscience? In 5-6 years time, do you really want the snide, yet accurate, criticisms levelled at you from Republican opponents? Will history treat you well on this issue?
At this point, you may have stopped reading. You may be so angry that you might want to respond. Nevertheless, there is a "third way". In other words, there is a way to leave Iraq in safe hands.
It's embarrassing, it's humiliating, and the Republicans will hate it. It is, however, a solution that allows all US troops to be removed from Iraq relatively quickly, while providing a real and meaningful chance for peace, prosperity and freedom in Iraq:
Let the United Nations take over.
Most Americans feel, at the very least, ambivalent towards the UN. Quite a few hate it. Some of these people may include you. Try to put that aside.
What I am suggesting is that the United States approach the United Nations and argue that the place should become a UN protectorate. In other words, the UN would control Iraq until such time as it can be shown that the nation can run itself.
In this situation, the 140,000 US troops would be replaced by international peace-keeping troops. The economy would be maintained by the UN, which would set up monetary and fiscal policy, as well as investing money into important infrastructure. To guard against corruption, there needs to be some form of independent "watchdog" organisation ensuring that contracts are dealt with fairly and according to correct guidelines.
Cynical? Not confident that the UN could do it? Your doubts are well founded. However, please remember the following points:
* America is already failing in providing security and building infrastructure.
* The "Oil for Food" corruption scandal involved less than 1% of the total funds raised by the programme, with the vast majority of it improving the lives of those suffering under UN sanctions before the 2003 invasion.
* Many places in former Yugoslavia are under UN control at the moment. Although the situation there is less than perfect, the UN has ensured some level of peace and order.
What about security? Will UN peacekeepers do a better job than US forces are doing at the moment? I think so - especially if there is an increase in troop numbers. If 500,000 - 600,000 UN peacekeepers could be in Iraq, they would make much more of a dent than 140,000 US soldiers.
And where would these troops come from? China, India, South Africa - you name it. Maybe even France and Germany could provide troops! How would ordinary Iraqis respond to this? Since the US troops are essentially invaders, there is a lot of hatred towards American troops. UN peacekeepers would not have the same level of hatred towards them. Of course the radicals would end up portraying the UN peacekeepers as another US-like enemy, but ordinary Iraqis would be harder to convince.
So what am I suggesting you American Liberals should do?
Rather than just arguing for withdrawl, you need to bring the UN into it. Instead of saying "US troops out of Iraq NOW!", you need to say "Send the UN into Iraq NOW!". Although it is effective to wage a simple campaign based solely upon withdrawl, it would be better for American Liberals in the long run to explicitly support a massive UN involvement in Iraq alongside a total withdrawl of US troops.
I suppose I am arguing that the future is at stake here. If you Liberals merely succeed in withdrawing US troops, history will not treat you kindly, and, within ten years, many of you will be regretting not coming up with a better solution.
But if the UN takes over, history will treat American liberals kindly. Not only did these liberals succeed in removing US troops but they also provided a reasonable solution to the anarchy that would have led to the deaths of many Iraqis.
So I believe American liberals need to change their tune slightly. Yes, keep arguing for US troop removal, but also argue for the UN to take over. Even Hilary Clinton would concede to this argument.
Update 22 February 2006:
The figures I quoted above for the Oil for Food scandal are wrong - the amount was quite a bit more than 1%. Nevertheless, evidence shows that the Oil for food program improved the lives of ordinary Iraqis considerably. An expanded article on the positive outcomes of the Oil for food program can be found here.
From the One Salient Overlord Department
© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.