2006-12-11

Cheapskate philosophizer's Iraq withdrawal plan

There seems to be a gradual acceptance that some kind of withdrawal of American forces from Iraq is in the offing. But how can we do it without endangering the Iraqi people even more than they are currently in danger? Or without, in the words of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, somehow threatening his people's sovereignty?

I believe there is a way to do it that is extremely simple, suggested by a story in this morning's New York Times and elsewhere reporting that for various reasons, Iraq is not spending the money it earns from the sale of its oil. Apparently the money is starting to roll in, but through fear, greed, or incompetence, over 20 billion has not been spent so far.

There are many reasons why the pressure is building to withdraw our troops, and the cost is only one of them. Yet the cost of our involvement may be the key to us getting out.

Here's one random philosophizer's plan for getting us out of there.

First, establish a timetable for a phased withdrawal: I suggest one US federal fiscal year, but any other fairly brief interval would be fine. Within this withdrawal window, set additional milestones each quarter. But the withdrawal is not directly that of US troops, but rather the withdrawal of US financing for the occupation. That is, each quarter, America cuts its financial backing for Iraqi nation-building by 1/4. If Iraq steps up and covers the tab, then no troops would need to leave, but if they don't then US commanders would have to make whatever adjustments they considered optimal while reducing the cost of their presence to 3/4, then 1/2, then 1/4.

At the end of the one-year period, the US contribution would be reduced to the level of conventional, long-term financial aid to an important ally, and Iraq would be expected to pay the full cost of US occupation and security forces.

What this does is to move the question away from the emotional "support the troops" rhetoric and over to that American specialité, bean counting. It also enforces rather than weakens Iraqi sovereignty, because it puts the ball firmly in their court. US forces are willing to back up the pledges made by Bushco in our name, but the American people would no longer, after the transitional year, agree to pay for it. If the Iraqi government wants us to stay, then they can pay for it by selling oil (to us or to others). In other words, the Iraqis get to decide how much US involvement remains in their country.

To prevent various absurd scenarios, it would probably be wise to set a limit on how long actual US troops could remain even while supported by Iraqis, say, two additional years. But even in that case, the Iraqis could continue to maintain and support a presence of American civilian forces by contracting directly with one of the mercenary or construction groups already heavily used by the US government, such as Blackwater or Halliburton.

What I suspect is that when it comes down to a choice between better roads, schools, electric services, and so on, the Iraqis will vote with their pocketbooks and we will rapidly cease to be an occupying power in the Middle East.

1 comment:

The Ripper said...

Great post, thanks. Don't know if you've seen these two short videos from Iraq yet or not, but both show the US Military engaging in some very dubious actions. I have them up on my site at www.minor-ripper.blogspot.com ..You have to wonder what these soldiers were thinking when videotaping this stuff...