I confess some deep misgivings about the desirability of a rapid withdrawal from Iraq. I am always open to being persuaded that a coercive military occupation is a bad idea, and that the violent reality of that occupation has been obscured. And we should have absolutely no illusions that the troops are going to improve the situation, nor that the civil war is going to subside. There is absolutely nor reason for that – it is a nation full of cities where sectarian enemies live side by side, and where political loyalty is primarily sectarian.
But this does not mean that a withdrawal could not make the situation worse. I see precious little evidence that the militias that routinely deliver dozens of dead, mutilated, tortured bodies are primarily concerned with control of the central government. To the contrary, my strong suspicion is that they are driven by very local concerns – a grassroots ethnic cleansing movement. I don’t doubt that a “political compromise” between Sunni and Shiite elements in Iraq would be catalyzed by a withdrawal of U.S. forces, I’m just not convinced that anyone who is blowing up markets and gathering up every young Sunni man in the neighborhood for torture particularly gives a shit. And this situation – intense hatred, mixed cities, and weak control over paramilitary organizations – has a number of risk factors for efficient, state sponsored genocide. The role of U.S. forces, then, is simply to be the state, and so to prevent a centralized, managerial approach to genocide.
Or so it seems.
Kudos, then to Edwards for recognizing the risk.
I’m just not at all clear though, that his safeguard to this, withdrawing to Kuwait and Afghanistan, is enough to stem the tide. As Rwanda teaches us, it can happen quickly, and I don’t hear him or any other democratic candidate declaring a willingness to storm back into Baghdad in the event of the worst. It seems to me that they need to be in Baghdad.