Despite our misgivings on the completely bungled war in Iraq, we have, until now, resisted the call to withdraw Coalition troops, believing, as do many, that it would only make matters worse.
Now, however, it's time to begin an orderly withdrawal. Here's why.
First, things are only getting worse in Iraq, not better. The Iraqi death toll from the war is far higher than we expected, even if you take conservative estimates. The number of U.S. troop casualties continues to grow without any sign that we are making progress or making the country more secure. Every Senator, every congressman--regardless of party--who has recently been to Iraq has come back saying its worse than we know.
Second, the Iraqis no longer want us there. A recent poll of Iraqis found that 65% of Baghdad residents--and even greater percentages throughout the rest of the country (except the Kurdish region to the north)--want Coalition forces to leave, believing foreign troops are only making matters worse.
Third, British army commander General Richard Dannatt has now candidly stated that "our presence exacerbates the security problems." He added that "whatever consent we may have had in the first place [from the Iraqi people] has largely turned to intolerance." We suspect many U.S. officers feel the same way, but don't feel free to speak up.
Fourth, our own most recent National Intelligence Estimate says that the U.S. presence in Iraq is a magnet for terrorists. We aren't defeating terrorists in Iraq; we're creating them, and we're helping them hone their methods.
Finally, our massive military presence in Iraq is hindering U.S. efforts to carry out other important missions, not the least of which is killing Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan/Pakistan. Our inability to stabilize Iraq is also emboldening Iran and North Korea.
Does that mean we have to leave Iraq in "defeat"? No. Our troops can come home having accomplished their mission. They removed Saddam Hussein--a dictator who everyone agreed was dangerous to the world--from power. They assured the world that there are no weapons of mass destruction. But now, they have no mission, other than to pretend there is no civil war as sectarian violence kills hundreds per day.
Does that mean we simply bring all the troops home tomorrow? No, of course not. We must have an orderly, phased withdrawal. We need to ensure that the stability existing in the Kurdish region is maintained. We need to keep a strong military presence in the region (e.g., in Kuwait). We need to give the Iraqi government a timetable it can count on.
Will a withdrawal prevent bad things from happening? No. Bad things will happen. The current government may well fall if it cannot get its act together pronto. But, the Iraqi people will, one way or another, work things out and eventually return to stability. The sooner we leave, the sooner they will get to that point.