Why the U.S. Can’t Pull out of Iraq Just Yet

Garrett Reynolds

You may have noticed the group of students on campus “raising awareness” of the war in Iraq. They’ve read off the names of Americans who have died in Iraq, set up American flags representing the deaths in front of Mead Chapel, and even had Cindy Sheehan come to speak. They advocate immediate withdrawal from Iraq as the best solution.

It’s clear that going to Iraq in the first place was a costly mistake, and Bush shouldn’t be forgiven for that. Fifty-five percent of Americans agree the US should never have gone into Iraq, and that figure is on the rise. Yet, even though the war was a gaff on the administration’s part, we must think of the consequences of withdrawal.
After screwing up Iraq, the US has a responsibility to do whatever it can in the interests of the Iraqi people. I propose that a good start would be to ask the Iraqis what they want the U.S. to do. Recently, BBC did exactly this. In an extensive study, they found that Iraqis do not want the US to pull out; sixty-five percent of Iraqis want the U.S. to stay.

Yes, pulling out may save some American lives, but it would cost tenfold that in Iraqi lives. So far, the war has seen about 3,300 American deaths. But compare that to the 600,000 Iraqis estimated to have been killed during the war, and you wonder why we never hear that number in the American media. Well, I guess it’s understandable that the students setting up the white flags decided to leave out the Iraqi ones.

To withdraw from Iraq would be a massive error. The U.S. is responsible for this mess, now we’ll just have to tough it out and stay, at least while the Iraqis want us to.

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5 Responses to “Why the U.S. Can’t Pull out of Iraq Just Yet”


  1. 1 Andrew Gustafson '04 May 22, 2007 at 4:55 am

    I largely agree with the sentiment of this piece – that the immediate withdrawal of American forces from Iraq is not a desirable option – but there are a number of problems here.

    First, to claim that the figure of 600,000 civilian deaths since the war began in Iraq is “never hear[d] … in the American media” is simply untrue. Last October, when this figure was published in the journal The Lancet as part of a study on the death toll of the war, it was widely reported by every major media outlet (there is even a link to CNN in the article). Even the president commented on it, calling it “not credible.” His unfounded criticisms aside, this study’s findings have been hotly contested, even by staunch opponents of the war, such as IraqBodyCount.org.

    Second, to say that pulling out would cost Iraqis “tenfold” the American savings in lives makes little sense when 200-fold more Iraqis than American servicemen have purportedly already died.

    But these criticisms are somewhat tangential to the main argument of the piece. The main problem is that although this is a brief article, there is very little analysis about why pulling out would be so bad. Would sectarian violence increase? Would Iran become more influential inside Iraq? Would the state break apart into terrorist-run pseudo-states? None of these critical issues are addressed.

    The article makes a good start of an argument by citing figures of Iraqi’s support of a continued American presence, but the author does not touch on why they want us to stay. Perhaps looking at another poll figure – that 48% of Iraqis cite security as their top daily concern – would be instructive on this point. Certainly the security situation would deteriorate in the event of a withdrawal, but how is it improving by our continued presence, if at all?

    The principal problem with the public debate on the Iraq war today is that no one can seem to articulate what exactly we are doing there and why we should keep on doing it. The most compelling argument in favor of withdrawal is that the Bush administration seems to have no mission, no plan, and no clear goals for the occupation of Iraq. We need less rhetoric like “stay the course” and “tough it out” and more analysis and evidence, especially from a publication committed to fostering debate on campus.

  2. 2 Eric Harvey '09.5 May 24, 2007 at 5:56 pm

    Iraq is not going to govern itself and possibly achieve some form of relative stability until it is given the chance to do so, and we are notgiving it that chance. The U.S. Presence in Iraq is leading to deaths, over 600,000 deaths as Reynolds said in his article. Perhaps the biggest priority should be bringing back education to Iraq. Before we invaded, nearly every Iraqi child was in school but today about a third of children are in school. Iraq will have a hard time finding peace and prosperity if its population is illiterate and uneducated. Beyond education, we should let the Iraqis rebuild their country by investing our reconstruction efforts in Iraqi firms. We could temporarily keep some soldiers there to help secure the borders, which would cut off the insurgency.

    Hope for Peace, the student organization referenced in the article, did not shy away from the statistic of Iraqi deaths, in fact, at one point a large banner on Proctor Terrace said there was an estimated 650,000 Iraqi deaths. Additionally, Iraqi names were read along with American soldiers on the
    invasion of the anniversary of the war. Finally, 92% of Iraqi’s would like U.S. Forces to leave. While they vary in when they want us to leave, they don’t want us to stay forever, and we need a plan for withdrawal. This would give both our troops and the Iraqis a goal to work towards and achieve.

    I’m no expert on war of reconstruction, but from what I’ve seen, things are not working, and this seems like a step in the right direction.

  3. 3 Andrew Carnabuci '06 July 4, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    Iraq is a country deeply divided by ethnic and religious strife. This strife has been kept in check, historically, by strong, centralized authoritarian rule. This was provided first by European colonization, and then by tyrannical home rule by the likes of Saddam
    Hussein. It cannot and will not be kept in check by a decentralized democratic government, especially one as weak as the Maliki government. My question is, if we stayed, to prevent genocide, at what point would that ‘prevention of genocide’ turn into an ‘occupation?’

    Iraq is entering a period of civil war. So long as we stay, that civil war is put on hold. Most Iraqis would like us to stay because they know that that civil war will entail tremendous genocides. With such a compelling incentive for American soldiers to remain, to keep civil order, when would Iraqis ever want us to leave? If this is what they want, it amounts to little more than re-colonization. Ceding responsibility for national security and civil order to a foreign power indefinitely on the grounds of internal incompetence is not the act of a nation-state. Iraq, it seems, has a long and difficult road ahead. It can either shoulder the tremendous responsibility of sovereignty and self-rule by making the necessary political compromises necessary to avert civil war, or it will fight its civil war, and forge a newer, stronger Iraw at the price of blood, much like this country did in the 1860s. What is not n option, it seems to me, is eternally refereeing a sectarian violence centuries older than America’s invasion of Iraq at the price of American treasure and blood. I certainly sympathize with the writer’s valid point that this invasion was ill-conceived and ill-executed, and hence we owe Iraq some debt, but we have rebuilt their infrastructure, their civil service, and their government, and I do not know how much else can actually be accomplished there by staying, however honorable our intentions.

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