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Leaving Iraq

(Wordcount: 1,851; Pages: 5) The American Heritage dictionary defines occupation as follows:

a) Invasion, conquest, and control of a nation or territory by foreign armed forces.
b) The military government exercising control over an occupied nation or territory.

There can hardly be an argument that what the United States' leadership is engaging in is an occupation of Iraq. And there are definite lessons in history that teaches us the mistakes of unplanned occupation. So, it is that much more unbelievable that despite having lived through some of the most bungled occupations in history, current U.S. leaders continue to occupy foreign lands as though history taught it no lessons. Before you misinterpret this remark, note that it is not an opinion.

In a debate between pro-pull-out General William E. Odom, Professor Yale University, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute, and Co-Author: "America's Inadvertent Empire" and pro-staying Peter Brookes, Senior Fellow for National Security Affairs, Heritage Foundation and Author: "A Devil's Triangle: Terrorism, WMD and Rogue States", moderated by Gideon Rose, Managing Editor, Foreign Affairs and hosted by the bi-partisan Smith Family Foundation at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York on Feb 7, 2006, the following ideas were presented.

Going In

After presidential declaration that there were in fact no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the primary reason the U.S. leadership chose to attack this foreign Middle East country for a second time in 10 years suddenly confirmed our bully status to the world. So, with our primary reason gone, it became imperative that we justify the war in Iraq as a defense of liberty and democracy, in an effort to free Iraqis (and by no small coincidence, to protect our strategic assets in that country, namely oil, which as was also recently implied by presidential acknowledgment that we're dependent on).

The three problems with this new rationale are:

1) Democracy, as it exists today, is an American product. Like British Imperialism, it serves American needs by facilitating commerce - ours. (This thinking has also been referred to "Pax Americana".) (1) It is fairly obvious that democracy is not the most popular government when just 22% of all nations on earth (2) are democratic. And of these, many are democracies by name only. Thus, it is a dubious belief that any other society would want the benefits of a Democracy over the benefits of any other government.

2) The average American seems to have forgotten that our Democracy wasn't achieved without extreme bloodshed. In fact, 2% of the United States' population - or 6 million in today's numbers - "perished" (3) to achieve this Democracy. And even then, Democracy only works when the elites are in agreement. And despite its high morality, corruption and exploitation are the rule, rather than the exception, as demonstrated by almost every party and administration since George Washington was in office.

3) Human beings have, since time immemorial, begged to be lead by leaders. Those who claim to chafe under anyone's rule eventually become the leaders of those who don't know how to even make a claim.

To put it in more relational terms, if I came to your house, killed your patriarch because of a principle that I have but you may not share, told you to now lead your household, but neglected to mention that in order to keep your house in order and prove to the neighborhood that you can indeed be master of your own domain, you may have to kill your kids, nieces, and nephews, would you want that sort of governance?

Here's another problem with the first reason for entering into this debacle: imagine if the U.S. were an Iraq of 300 million people and China, with an army as big as our entire population, decides that it doesn't like the fact we've got weapons of mass destruction that we may use against them; and that their Communist government was much more effective than our Democratic one; and, one day, they decide to invade the U.S. in order to control better our insatiable consumption of their strategic industries' exports. Under this scenario, you may be thinking that the U.S. has a God-given, Allah-given, Buddha-given right to bear arms and no Chinese commie is going to make us surrender that right. So, how is this any different than what the U.S. did in Iraq? More ironic, given our own constitutional right to bear arms, how did we rationalize that no other country, whether or not they have a constitution, doesn't have the same right?

Disturbingly, there were some audience participants who firmly believed no other nation but the U.S. should bear arms from the bottom of their cowboy-boot heels to the tops of their toupees and it's alarming to know that there are more folks out there who think this way than otherwise. Their rationale is simple - pre-empt, period. Thus, the casual observer (or foreigner) may be lead to believe that invading and occupying Iraq had nothing to do with rational decision-making, but the cruel moral values of a bigger, stronger force wanting to exert its perspective on a smaller, weaker entity, the definition of a bully.

Staying or Leaving

Would leaving be a strategic blunder at this point?

With our newfound objective of finding alternatives to oil, it would appear that our leadership is attempting to minimize the strategic significance to U.S. interests of Iraq or any country with oil.

Would we endanger more American lives if we pull out?

Ironically, in three years fighting in Iraq, we've lost over 75% of all the American lives lost to the World Trade Center tragedy, granting U.S. enemies a total of 5,255 American lives (4) in 4 years. Statistically speaking, it is likely that we would have lost a smaller fraction of all the soldiers, reporters, and other civilians lost had the U.S. never went to Iraq and moving forward, there is no reason to expect any additional loss of life if we do nothing further that instigates feuds between other armed entities, such as causing the deaths of as many as 100,000 Iraqi civilians. (5)

Would leaving Iraq constitute a failure of Democracy? And does Democracy really result in a better life for "liberated" people?

A study by General Odom revealed that out of 40 Democracies in his sample set, 6 are constitutional, and the rest liberal dictatorships. Considering Democracy's record for breeding inequality, is there really an argument any low-income, impoverished citizen would make against a more equalizing socialist or communist government?

Would leaving Iraq risk tarnishing the U.S.'s reputation as a superpower?

It's a safe bet that given how much the U.S. spends on defending itself - just over half a trillion bucks in 2007 (6) - no competent leader of any nation would dare mess with the U.S. Fully aware of how the U.S. utilizes its force, including its unquenchable thirst for imports ($2 trillion in 2005 alone [7]) which "democratized" countries are dependent on to survive, most of the other 5.7 billion people on the planet already have a less-than-positive perception of the U.S. If they arrive here, it's not to be a part of its magnificence, but to export the secret sauce back to their own countries, or in more American fashion, to merely stay and enjoy the benefits of their ambition and industriousness in far isolation from the rest of the planet's misery and without patriotism.

Leaving now would be a disgrace to all the soldiers who have died for the Democratic principle.

Forgetting for a moment the fact that serving as a member of our armed forces, protecting and defending us and our leaders' interests, is purely voluntary, it just so happens that after a minimum of two stretches averaging 14 months (many are on their second tour of duty as of this writing), and a mere 2 months of downtime with their families, there's an unspoken, yet nearly-unanimous feeling among the majority of our troops that perhaps it wouldn't be such a disgrace, a sentiment in open view in news reports from ingeniously "embedded" reporters and unfettered opinions from returning and decommissioned veterans through blogs and other easily accessible media. And logically speaking, since the average tenure from which to extract maximum performance from any solder in battle happens to only be about 6 months before mental and physical exertion hinders their performance, it's unlikely anyone is even in the right frame of mind to feel disgraced. If you were fighting for 3 years non-stop, with no goal or end to battle in sight, and it's not for your survival, but for principle which, as a grunt, you're not supposed to have anyway, would you want to continue to fight or go home without guilt or hint of disgraceful feeling? Previous wars depended on the forced drafting of millions, including slaves at one point in U.S. history. Without a forced draft, our armed forces have steadily declined in number over the last 50 years (See Graph 1. [8]), leaving the bulk of the battle to be fought by career soldiers, who surprisingly, number fewer than Wal-Mart employees (9). And Wal-Mart pays less. How these soldiers are treated defies all the research that points to how to best maximize performance from workers, arguably representing the real disgrace to soldiers who are kept in Iraq.

Graph 1
Source: Department of Defense Manpower: 1950 to 2001; al berrios & co analysis

Exit Strategy

As the recent electoral victories for Palestinian Hamas proved, there is much the average person believes, and Democratic governments are not one of them. Cheering Iraqis with marching U.S. soldiers in the background are comparable to how you'd react if Google announced a takeover of your technology company, which brought with it an implication that it was going to get rid of all the incompetent non-engineers. That feeling you're feeling right now is also the same experienced by Palestinians who succeeded in having Israelis removed from territory they claimed as theirs, despite generations of Israeli settlements. Imagine, though, if, without warning, it was the engineers that were fired. How would you feel? Imagine that feeling amplified 1000 times and you'll just start to understand why an occupation will not extinguish a desire to bring harm to your new bosses; this occupation hasn't done anything but engender and embolden more terrorists, literally, like throwing a rock at a bee-hive.

This is not a rebuke of the current administration - we all slip up sometimes. This is also not an endorsement for any political ideology. It is exactly what it sounds like, a strategic recommendation from the experts, condensed and reinforced here by a consultant, based on rational and planned thinking, and supported by reliable sources. It is not necessary for the reader to agree with any of the sentiments or conclusions expressed here and in the manner in which they're expressed here in order for them to be the optimal course of action - they are the optimal course of action. The best decisions are never the easiest and considering human nature's inclination to always be in the mix of gossip and activity, following, or even opening oneself up to these recommendations, will certainly be challenging; but one which is assuredly within America's ability to meet.


(1) Criticisms of the War on Terror

(2) Democratic regimes and when they became democratic; CIA World Factbook; al berrios & co. analysis.

(3) National Geographic, Battles of the Civil War, April 2005

(4) "The 9/11 Commission Report"; "Casualties in Iraq"; al berrios & co. analysis.

(5) Criticisms of the War on Terror; "Casualties in Iraq"

(6) Office of Management and Budget, White House, Presidential Budget for Fiscal Year 2007

(7) U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services, December 2005

(8) Department of Defense Manpower: 1950 to 2001; al berrios & co analysis

(9) Wal-Mart Facts

Al Berrios is Managing Director of al berrios & co., an innovative strategy consulting firm advising leaders on the impact of human behavior on their strategies and on how to change their organizations to address the behavior. Write to Consumer Strategies Report at editor @ alberrios.com.


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