Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The ethics of withdrawal

A recent post by Andrew Sullivan got me thinking about the US' and its individual citizens' ethical responsibilities in Iraq. This I believe, is something that even those of us who opposed the invasion from the beginning need to consider.

It is not enough, for me at least, to say that I was against the invasion in the first place and therefore I wash my hands of the whole thing. What the US is doing in Iraq right now is none the less being done in my name, if not with my blessing.

But first, Andrew's post:

"I would not leave the region. I would not even threaten to leave the region. The idea that by threatening to leave the region will cause the political players to become sufficiently frightened that they will get their act together politically—I don’t necessarily believe that. I would stay in the region because we cannot afford this to become a regional conflict, but we might need to back away from the center of the conflict and let that fire burn, while keeping our troops in the north and perhaps on the southern border. And there is much that we can do, to keep both Iran and their Sunni neighbors from coming in massively to augment that conflict between the Shi‘a and the Sunnis. To let the fire burn in the center—this is an Arab conflict; it’s not Kurdish conflict; it’s an Arab-Sunni-Shi‘a conflict—and let conflict burn itself out," - General Charles G. Boyd, National Interest.

That's pretty much where I've come out on this. Get to Kurdistan and the borders and let them have their civil war. We can even exploit it for our own purposes, if we get smart enough.

My initial reaction was that, yeah, I basically agree with this stance myself, let's keep an eye on the neighbors and the borders and let the Sunni and Shia battle it out themselves, then deal with the victors. We're not helping as is and 21,500 additional American soldiers doesn't strike me as any more likely to improve the situation.

Yet I find myself unhappy with this position.

Sure the Sunni and Shia have been going at it to greater and lesser degrees for hundreds of years. But that conflict in Iraq had been fairly quiescent under Saddam's regime for decades. And while I certainly don't approve the tacts Saddam used, still it can hardly be argued that the US invasion and following instability did not set the conditions triggering the current round of sectarian violence.

That being the case, what then, should a non-ethically challenged American stand for?

[I plan on adding further thoughts on this question to this post, but I wanted to pose this question generally, on the off chance that someone reading this might have some suggestions.-CK]

No comments: