SFDebate : Listen, Speak, Discuss, Understand


This House Believes it's Time to Pull the Troops out of Iraq

Passed : 14:4 (6 Abstained)

Six months ago, SFDebate voted to leave the troops in Iraq, until at least mid 2008. In this evening's debate, after two days of testimony from Gen Petreaus and Ambassador Crocker, the SFDebate group faltered in their support for the ongoing engagement in Iraq.

Over 30 people attended the debate, with four speakers stepping up to kick things off. I didn't take great notes this time, but here are some comments that I noted down from the speakers :

  • Michael D. - "Can you remember the anguish our nation sufferred over the killings at Virginia Tech. That is happening every day in Iraq".... "Our presence there creates a front and an excuse for radical Islam."
  • Jonathan A - "I expect America to be in Iraq for a long long time.".... "Imagine what would happen if these religious terrorists took power of an oil-rich region.
  • Jon HF - "Iraq is a tradgedy." .... "Estimates are now that it will cost another trillion dollars"... "A policy that cannot be sustained cannot succeed."
  • Peter - "These things take a generation to solve." .... He equated cultivating democracy to raising a child. "Would you disown a four year old child because he throws temper tantrums. Would you condone a parent who behaved that way?"

The floor debate was intense at times, and you kinda had to be there to feel it. Here are some of my gut feelings after the debate :

The scale of the violence in Iraq is horrifying. Hundreds of US troops are dying every month; hundreds more are injured; thousands of Iraqi civillians are killed, and again, many more horifically injured. There is a flight of the middle class from Iraq. The doctors, lawyers, the educated, are all fleeing, leaving behind a society that is less and less stable. Over 1.5 million Iraqis have fled to Syria. Another 1 million to Jordan. America of course has kept its doors mostly shut, welcoming in only 5000. - Let's put that in perspective. 1 in 10 people have left Iraq. They are now the biggest refugee population in the world.

What are our goals in Iraq? When will we be able to pull our troops out? After our last debate, it felt like there was broad agreement in the group and in public sentiment that we all wanted our troops out, as soon as peace was restored. Over the last few weeks a realism has crept in to the debate that we may never restore peace in Iraq. That our troops may still be there in 40 years time.

When did we sign up for a generational involvement Iraq? - Four years ago George Bush did his speech on the aircraft carrier in front of a banner claiming "Mission Accomplished." When did building a happy functioning democracy become part of our mission? When were we appraised of the costs. When did we sign up for an occupation that might last decades and cost trillions ?

But, lest I sound too anti-war, there is a strong strategic-realist counter-argument. Iraq is the second most oil-rich country in the world. If we withdraw, it will likely fall into the hands of people who are actively our enemies. We've cultivated and grown these enemies, but they are nevertheless our enemies. Would they finance future attacks on the US? - Would they spread instability in a region that is critically important to the global economy? With no bases in the middle east, the US will be unable to project it's power in the region. If instability spread to Saudi we might see gas prices rocket... not just to $4 or $5, but to $10 or $15. - How would that affect our economy? How many trillions of dollars woud that cost?

Our current policy of supporting a functioning democracy in Iraq isn't working, but a pull-out would be a catastrophe. Ayman Al-Zawahiri summed it up nicely : “America is between two fires. If it stays in Iraq, it will bleed to death; if it leaves, it will lose everything.” Our war is lost. Our choice is how we lose.

Imagine that feeling you get in your stomach when you know you are going to vomit. You can try and hold it in, you can try and postpone the inevitable, or you can give in and let it out. Iraq needs to vomit, many lives will be lost, and the strongest most ruthless leaders will come to power. But we can influence how and when this happens. Perhaps it is best to withdraw troops to our military outposts and let Iraq take it's course; to stand by; to watch it revolt. Let's prepare refugee camps; offer armed protection for innocent families, and let a new Iraq arise.

It's just an idea. What do you think?

-- james

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