An Exit Policy in Iraq

There is heated debate in the United States over the exit policy from Iraq. Draw down by two brigades by end of 2006 has been planned. The forthcoming congressional elections have rendered their own tempo to this debate. The United States domestic policy should not however result in America backing out from its commitment in Iraq. The basic considerations determining the pull out should include the following in the order of priority:-

Success of the Mission. The mission must be successful, which would imply that democracy is restored in Iraq, which in turn would entail not just elections and forming a government. These are the starting moves in a long peace building campaign and include establishment of law and order machinery, imposing the rule of law, justice and freedoms. This mission will not be complete in the next 5 to 10 years going by conservative estimates. However the Americans could opt out if they feel that the Iraqis are able to manage democracy. This will take the same time as indicated above. Hence if the US administration wants to leave Iraq on a successful note, then a draw down cannot start immediately, it will have to wait another couple of years.

Stability in Iraq and Commitment to the Iraqi People. The United States has made a commitment to the Iraqi people to restore stability. This is linked to bullet one above. America cannot leave before fulfilling this commitment. It is not only a moral but an international obligation of the United States Government as well as its people. There may be a feeling that with America out of the way, stability is likely to be restored as US forces are seen as alien. While this is the underlying sentiment, leaving before restoring stability will result in anarchy.

American Credibility. This is a two way process. If America leaves Iraq in turmoil it will lose its credibility as a stabilizing power in global polity. If it stays on, it will be considered as a global gendarme. The latter is the lesser of two evils. America must retain its credibility to denote that it will have to stay the course even against all adversities; otherwise it will be a serious blow to its ability to bring order by its moral as well as physical force in other hot spots of the World.

Middle East Order. What is America’s view of the Middle East order in the future? Is it going to be one dominated by Iran or a balance between the main powers in the area? In case America leaves in too much of a hurry, it will leave the field wide open for dominance by Iran, which even today is seen as the principal beneficiary.

The sacrifice made by the American soldiers as well as the soldiers and citizens of other countries cannot be allowed to go to waste, America thus owes it to these people as well as to itself to ensure restoration of stability in Iraq before a pull out or a draw down.

Rahul K. Bhonsle is a Strategic Risk and Knowledge Management Consultant and writer with specific focus on defence and security, especially in South Asia.