Why Get Out of Iraq Now?
Governor Richardson answers that question in an op-ed published in the Washington Post, while laying out his plan for ending George Bush's war and calling out his rivals on how many troops they would leave in Iraq and for how long.
Our troops have done everything they were asked to do with courage and professionalism, but they cannot win someone else's civil war. So long as American troops are in Iraq, reconciliation among Iraqi factions is postponed. Leaving forces there enables the Iraqis to delay taking the necessary steps to end the violence. And it prevents us from using diplomacy to bring in other nations to help stabilize and rebuild the country.
The presence of American forces in Iraq weakens us in the war against al-Qaeda. It endows the anti-American propaganda of those who portray us as occupiers plundering Iraq's oil and repressing Muslims. The day we leave, this myth collapses, and the Iraqis will drive foreign jihadists out of their country. Our departure would also enable us to focus on defeating the terrorists who attacked us on Sept. 11, those headquartered along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border -- not in Iraq.
Logistically, it would be possible to withdraw in six to eight months. We moved as many as 240,000 troops into and out of Iraq through Kuwait in as little as a three-month period during major troop rotations. After the Persian Gulf War, we redeployed nearly a half-million troops in a few months. We could redeploy even faster if we negotiated with the Turks to open a route out through Turkey.
As our withdrawal begins, we will gain diplomatic leverage. Iraqis will start seeing us as brokers, not occupiers. Iraq's neighbors will face the reality that if they don't help with stabilization, they will face the consequences of Iraq's collapse -- including even greater refugee flows over their borders and possible war.
This is the kind of plan that can only be conceived by a seasoned foreign policy operative. The reason Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards won't answer the question is because none of them has the foreign policy experience necessary to stand up to today's foreign policy challenges and restore American prestige in the global community. Only Bill Richardson can lead us out of Iraq and bring a new realism to American foreign policy.