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Outside View: Leaving Iraq -- Part 2

In a climate still pervaded by such conflicting emotions on either side it will be very difficult to conduct an otherwise legitimate debate as to what should be the way forward in Iraq. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Paolo Liebl Von Schirach
Washington (UPI) Jun 1, 2009
The current democratic government in Iraq supported by U.S. forces, whatever its many weaknesses, is still there, with no viable alternative produced by the insurrectionists in sight.

Nor can we say that Iraq, daily carnage notwithstanding, is in total chaos. Conditions in that country under the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are not remotely comparable to the anarchy that Somalia has experienced over the past 15 years or to the genocidal chaos that has swept the Congo -- formerly known as Zaire -- for more than a decade, taking perhaps as many as 10 million lives. Prime Minister Maliki's government has more than 630,000 soldiers and police to maintain levels of security in his country.

We can therefore establish that there has been no "debacle" in Iraq, especially since the counter-insurgency strategy of Gen. David Petraeus in 2007 and 2008 was successfully implemented. While it did not eliminate the Sunni Muslim insurgency in Baghdad and Central Iraq, it dramatically reduced the levels of violence in those areas and gravely weakened the insurgents.

Yet, the casual way in which critics use terms that imply final defeat, not as a possibility, but as an obvious fact that needs no supporting evidence, is worrisome in as much it shows that in this matter it reflects the triumph of emotions and not of reason.

An apocalyptic diagnosis is just as wrong as the unfounded sunny optimism that claims regardless of any evidence to the contrary "We are winning." And that was the prevailing attitude enforced on the Pentagon and the U.S. government during the presidency of George W. Bush, especially in the years that Donald Rumsfeld served as his secretary of defense.

In a climate still pervaded by such conflicting emotions on either side it will be very difficult to conduct an otherwise legitimate debate as to what should be the way forward in Iraq.

The critics seem to subscribe to at least two separate but concurrent views.

The first one indicates that the real priority at this stage of the conflict is to save American lives. This is really an updated version of a "cut and run" strategy; but one that is presented in the name of the higher moral value of saving American lives from a doomed situation in a conflict that should have never been started and by definition cannot be won.

The second view is more complex. But it can be summarized as follows: "We Americans have to convey to the Iraqi authorities how disappointed we are realizing that they cannot do a better job."

Part 3: The dangers for potential U.S. miscalculations in Iraq over the next two and a half years

(Paolo Liebl von Schirach is the editor of, a regular contributor to Swiss radio and an international economic-development expert.)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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Outside View: Leaving Iraq -- Part 1
Washington (UPI) May 29, 2009
The hubristic hype that characterized the first three years of the U.S.-dominated occupation of Iraq following the invasion of March 2003 was followed by defeatist hype. Since then, the relative success of the "surge" counterinsurgency strategy directed by Gen. David Petraeus has restored a broader sense of perspective. The "surge" strategy with its success in lowering, though not elimi ... read more

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