Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Get Out of Iraq? Ask the Iraqis

This seems like a logical step. Which is probably why I don't hear anyone in Washington calling for it.

THE time seems ripe for a referendum: Ask the Iraqi people if they want U.S. troops to stay and help Iraqi security forces pacify the country, or leave Iraqis to work out their own fate.

Iraq's government could place the following yes/no statement on the ballot to answer those questions: "The Iraqi people request and welcome continued assistance of American forces in securing their safety and freedom."

If Iraqis vote for the United States to stay, then it is clear that the current Iraq war is not merely a Bush administration misadventure, as critics claim.

A two-thirds mandate would likely be needed to give the American people and U.S. allies renewed motivation to see this enterprise through, and give the administration the opportunity to implement a viable strategy for victory over those forces that want the freely elected Iraqi government to fail.

Should Iraqis not deliver a clear mandate for the Americans to stay, it would enable the United States to respect their democratically expressed will and begin exiting the country honorably. Leaving Iraq under this circumstance is far preferable than the unilateral retreat espoused by some leaders after the recent U.S. elections.

The vast majority of Iraqis are likely to vote affirmatively. They know that if U.S. troops depart, four predominantly Sunni provinces and Baghdad will descend into utter chaos and that foreign Sunnis will pour into Iraq to support their co-religionists against an expected onslaught by the more-numerous Shiites. In short, they know that U.S. forces are all that stands between them and complete societal collapse.
Since the Coalition removed Saddam Hussein's terrorist regime from power, Iraqis have regained their sovereignty, held three free elections, formed a constitutional government and sentenced their former dictator to death for crimes against humanity. All of this has been accomplished in considerably less time, and with far fewer U.S. casualties, than in Germany, Japan and Korea more than a half-century ago. (And America still has 70,000 troops in Germany, 40,000 in Japan and 33,000 in South Korea.)

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