Exit strategy from Iraq: Will US withdrawal diminish its image? | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 29, 2007 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, September 29, 2007

Exit strategy from Iraq: Will US withdrawal diminish its image?

To pacify the Democrats and an overwhelming section of American people, President Bush, on 14 September in a nationwide address, announced that he would withdraw 5700 troops by this Christmas and about 21,500 by next summer.
President Bush called the “surge” a success and he visited the Anbar province on his way to Sydney on 3rd September. Anbar province has turned into “an oasis of peace” in Iraq. The irony is that the Sunni leader Sheikh Abdus Satter Abu Risha, who supported the US against the Islamic militants in that province and met the President, was assassinated by the time the President was announcing troops withdrawal as a measure of success.
What the President announced was to recall the additional troops sent to Iraq since this February. That means the presence of US troops would be the same as it was last year. He predicted that the US troops are for a long haul, some say, at least for ten years in Iraq.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, (Democrat) reacted to the President's announcement saying: “What the President failed to say how maintaining 13,000 troops in Iraq would strengthen the military, makes the US safe or how he would pay $700 billion cost.”
Perception from reality
Perception of the Bush administration is that if all the US troops are withdrawn from Iraq, it is a humiliation for the super power and the Islamic militants will have a great day in spreading their influence in the Middle East. Many commentators have said that the perception is flawed.
US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles in the Eisenhower Administration perceived that if South Vietnam fell to Communism, all ASEAN countries would become communist and the US had to fight in Vietnam. Finally, the US withdrew from Vietnam in 1975 and not a single country in South East Asia fell into the communist camp. Rather Vietnam has turned into a free-economy country with communist leaders at the top in the political system. Dulles was wrong in his perception.
Withdrawal from Vietnam did not make US less powerful; rather it has emerged as the only super power in the world. That makes assessment or perception different from reality. Observers believe the same mind-set is working in withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq.
Lesson from the American War of Independence
When the British troops were defeated, the British band was said to have played a tune called “The World Turned Upside Down”.
King George III, the defeated General Lord Charles Cornwallis (who later became Governor General of British India for two terms-1886-93) and British ministers were convinced that the withdrawal of British troops from the 13 colonies would result not only in anarchy in America but also in the collapse of the entire British Empire. France, Spain and other rivals would seize the remaining colonies in America.
King George III's strategic assessment turned out to be entirely wrong. In fact Britain had been fighting a wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time, as the US presently has been fighting in Iraq since 2003. It has been a wrong war on terrorism at a wrong place and at a wrong time.
History has it that the defeat of Britain in the war of American independence eventually made Britain great.
How did the defeat make Britain great?
Britain in fact thereafter colonized Australia and New Zealand after its defeat in the US. Its hold over India was consolidated. Prime Minister William Pitt (the younger) passed the India Bill 1784 - thus ensuring that the sort of administration that had soured relations with the American colonies would not be repeated.
Pitt created the necessary economic conditions through industrialisation that had given unprecedented economic growth to Britain. Most important with the economic growth, he had the money to rebuild the British navy and army. Britain then defeated Napoleon in Waterloo in 1815 and became the supreme power in the world.
If Britain was not defeated in 1781, many historians say it could not have defeated Napoleon.
Wrong War
Saddam Hussein's Iraq had nothing to do with Osama Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network. It was a secular state. There is a view that for strategic interests and security of Israel, the US President Bush, goaded by neo-conservatives including Vice-President Dick Cheney, attacked Iraq and now the Iraq is in mess.
More than two million Iraqi refugees are in Syria and Jordan, more than one hundred thousand in Saudi Arabia and fifty thousand in Iran. Does the US take care of them?
And the real experience of Iraq war is not shelling and so on. War is what happens afterwards, the years of suffering hopelessly with a disabled husband or son and no money or struggling to rebuild when all your property has been destroyed.
Steadily and slowly his Republican Senators oppose his flawed policy of 'surge' of troops in Iraq and are deserting the President. That is why the President had to announce symbolic withdrawal of troops he sent this year.
Similar position of the US
Today the US, many observers say, finds itself in much the same position in Iraq as Britain was in during 1781 in Virginia.
The US is getting distracted and diminished by an irrelevant, costly and un-winnable war in Iraq. China in the meantime has extended its influence both in Latin America and Africa. The former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage had the similar view that the US did not attend to the needs of Asia and Africa as it had bogged down in Iraq.
Already, under President Bush, the image of US overseas has fallen in Europe and in the Arab world according to the recent Pew Research Studies.
The withdrawal of troops will restore the image of the US. Let the Iraqis govern themselves with the support of Arab States.
The Bush administration cannot impose democracy on Iraq. It must come from within Iraq and Iraqi society; being tribal in nature, it is very difficult to instill nationalism into tribal Iraqis. Furthermore for sustainable democracy, one needs a growing middle class in a country and the middle class in Iraq disappeared during the long ten years of UN sanctions, prompted by the US.

American people must choose a leader who has the moral courage to withdraw all its troops from Iraq and contribute to the maintenance of world peace.
Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia denounced the misguided President Bush's march to war in Iraq with the following words:
“I weep for my country. I have watched the events of recent months with a heavy, heavy heart. No more is the image of America one of strong, yet benevolent peacekeeper. Around the globe, our friends mistrust us, our word is disputed, our intentions are questioned…. After the war has ended, the US will have to rebuild much more than the country of Iraq. We will have to rebuild America's image around the globe”
The author is former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.

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