Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Steve Simon on exiting Iraq

Stephen Simon, co-author with Daniel Benjamin of The Age of Sacred Terror and The Next Attack, has prepared a paper for the Council on Foreign Relations recommending the US exit Iraq, After the Surge: The Case for U.S. Military Disengagement from Iraq Feb 2007. We could probably call his proposal a "soft deadline" approach:

The intention to withdraw should be declared as the results of the surge become clear. A coordinated declaration of this kind would not entail setting a certain date on which the last American soldier would depart Iraq. Since there exists a remote possibility that the situation on the ground might change radically during the drawdown period, the United States could qualify its declared intention to leave on a specific timetable withappropriate caveats. If, for example, there were a dramatic increase in intercommunal violence leading to a flood of refugees, U.S. forces might be needed to set up camps, administer aid, and provide security for the refugees. Alternatively, if the current surge strategy works, political compromises are made, ethnic cleansing operations cease, militias are brought under the government’s control, a multiconfessional army including a meaningful number of Sunni officers is created, and the United States is asked to remain to battle a lingering insurgency, it might behoove Washington to suspend the drawdown. A twelve-to-eighteen-month time frame for disengagement, to commence once the results of the surge have become apparent, would leave the United States with the flexibility to respond to such changes. The surge results should be clear well within six months. [Duncan Black coined the term "Friedman unit" for these progress-in-six-months predictions, after columnist Tom Friedman who has made several of them.] Nevertheless, the departure timetable would not hinge on specific benchmarks, since the Iraqi government is probably incapable of curbing militias and accommodating Sunni concerns; nor is it likely to generate an effective, multiconfessional army in the foreseeable future. The U.S. drawdown should not be hostage to Iraqi performance. (my emphasis)
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