Should the U.S. Withdraw its Troops from Iraq?
Overview/BackgroundAmerican troops have been in Iraq for several years now. Although the defeat of Saddam and the Iraq military was relatively easy, the stabilization of the country in the aftermath has been anything but easy. Thousands of American troops have died, and Iraqi civilians continue to get caught in terrorist and cross-cultural attacks on a daily basis. The U.S. continues to progress in its attempt to help the Iraqis become politically and militarily self-sufficient, but most Democrats and much of the American public has lost patience for what they perceive as a never-ending task that offers costs too high to bear. So the questions remains, does the U.S. cut its losses and withdraw now, or should it stay and try to complete an extremely difficult task which may take years or decades?
- It would save the lives of many American troops and allow them to return home. Thousands of America's bravest have already been killed, with tens of thousands more wounded. Those tragic figures will only continue to grow the longer we stay in Iraq. And the troops that haven't become casualties grow weary and long to return to their families back home.
- It may motivate terrorist insurgents to stop attacking innocent civilians in Iraq. Although terrorist insurgents are constantly trying their best to kill American soldiers, they have discovered that it's much easier to kill innocent, unarmed civilians. Terrorist insurgents can only win if the American public grows war-weary enough to push lawmakers to retreat from Iraq. Thus, it's critical for them to keep negative news about attacks & death in the top stories of Western media outlets on a daily basis. If American troops withdraw, it takes away the terrorists' ability to continue to manipulate gullible media people. Thus, Iraqi civilians will stop suffering at such a high rate.
- It will free up billions of dollars in funds that can be used for education, social security, renewable energy research, etc. Hundreds of billions of our tax dollars have already been spent on this war, and the pace of spending is not likely to slow down. If lawmakers cut funding or make it conditional, it will likely be seen by the American public as not supporting the troops. Imagine what we could do with all that extra money. We could shore up education and infrastructure, ensuring high future productivity and job opportunities. We could shore up a social security system heading for bankruptcy. We could develop renewable energy sources, possibly alleviating our dependence on Middle Eastern oil.
- It will push Iraqi lawmakers to come to more agreements in running the new democracy. Much of Iraqi is still bitterly divided. Sunnis used to rule the country under Saddam. Now the Shiite majority has taken the bulk of power in the new democratic government. However, until government officials can learn to share certain powers and come to more agreements, a de facto civil war will continue. If American troops leave, it will push lawmakers to the negotiating table since the soldiers won't be around to suppress insurgencies. In other words, Iraqi officials will be forced to use more of a carrot approach than a stick approach.
- World opinion of the United States will continue to get worse until we withdraw. Poll after poll shows that world opinion of the United States has degraded. Although we cannot take back our decision to launch what many thought of as an illegal preemptive war, we can at least try to make the best of things from this point on. The United States is starting to be seen as an occupying power in the same way that Israel is seen as an occupying power of Palestine. It's time to reverse the plummeting tide of world opinion.
- Much of the Muslim world resents the presence of American troops, and it is an easy source of terrorist recruitment and anti-American propaganda. The lifeblood of Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups is propaganda. To ensure successful continuance of their war, they must replenish their losses with a steady stream of new recruits. They also must be able to manipulate the press and weak politicians. In short, they must make themselves look like "freedom fighters". As long as American troops are in Iraq, all they have to do is put together videos showing soldiers in Muslim lands, as well as videos of Iraqi civilians suffering in hospitals. It won't matter to Al Jazeera & other biased media "reporters" that almost all civilian deaths in Iraq are a result of the terrorist insurgent actions, the Americans will still get blamed. And a new generation of terrorists and America haters will continue to grow.
- Troops can be redeployed to Afghanistan and other areas where they're needed. The whole reason we started this War on Terror was to take out Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Much of the war remains unfinished in the place it started--Afghanistan. Any soldiers and resources that continue to be spent in Iraq will only take away what could be used there.
- Iraq is no longer the direct threat to the U.S. that it was under Saddam, and we have no business fighting in its civil war. The main reason we went to war in Iraq in the first place was to take out the threat from Saddam and his WMD. Saddam was captured and executed a long time ago. His WMD programs are no longer a threat to us or anyone in the Middle East. We've done our best to help Iraq form a democracy, but the hate and bad blood between the citizens is too deep for us to do anything more. The bloodshed is something the Iraqis must work out on their own.
- We can help the new Iraqi government without providing troops; for example, we can provide arms, money, and training. Just because we'd be withdrawing troops doesn't mean we're completely abandoning the Iraqis. We can still provide weapons, money, and whatever help is needed short of troop deployment. We can still train Iraqi police and soldiers, just at locations outside the country. Several other countries would probably be more willing to help since the U.S. is no longer an "occupying force", as it's in almost everyone's best interests to secure stability in the region.
- More troops in Iraq means we have less available in the U.S. to help out in natural disasters and domestic threats to security. You never know when Katrina-type natural disasters are going to hit the country. In such situations, we need as much government resources available to help as possible. Also, you never know when the next terrorist attack is going to occur in this country. It's in our best interests to have National Guard available to respond to whatever emergencies occur.
- We need to turn our attention to Iran, North Korea, and other threats to world peace. North Korea is already a nuclear power. Iran is close to become a nuclear power. Russia is murdering dissenters of its government in old Soviet-style killings. China has increased its military spending by 18 percent. Hugo Chavez remains a thorn in America's side. We have too many other threats to world peace to put all our defense eggs in the Iraq basket.
- A true Sunni-Shiite civil war could ensue, resulting in ten times the current bloodshed. Although there is daily bloodshed in Iraq, American troops largely keep it at a fraction of what it could be. They provide security checkpoints, enforce curfews, train Iraqi police, raid terrorist insurgent strongholds, and do countless other tasks to help maintain security. In fact, the vast majority of the country is stable. The trouble remains almost entirely focused in the Sunni-dominated Baghdad area. In any case, if we pull out now, a new and relatively inexperienced Iraqi police force must take over security for the whole country, which is a task they are likely not yet ready to handle. If they aren't, a true civil war could break out and make the current bloodshed pale in comparison. The U.S. Civil War took the lives of over a half million Americans. Imagine what a civil war with today's weapons would look like, especially in an area with so many fanatical, suicidal terrorists.
- The longer we stay, the more time Iraqi politicians have to work out government structure differences, and the more time Iraqi troops & police have to train. Unlike the quagmire of Vietnam, we have a plan for the future of Iraq. We're trying to build a working democracy that grows and thrives. Unfortunately, such a monumental task takes time and patience. It took hundreds of years to get our own democracy working well! And that was without terrorists and countries like Iran try to sabotage the effort at every turn. Our first attempt at a constitution (the Articles of Confederation) was such a complete and utter failure that we threw it out and started over from scratch. Iraq is simply going through the same growth process. The longer we give them to work out problems, the more stable the country will be in the future. And if we give the Iraqi troops time to train and gain experience, they'll be better prepared to face the many challenges ahead.
- We may have to re-invade if we don't stabilize the country since it could become a terrorist haven or could bring to power another Saddam. Iraq's democracy is definitely fragile. History shows that weak governments can easily be overtaken by brutal, power-hungry thugs...Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Castro, Hussein...the list goes on and on. The whole terror war started because the ruthless Taliban took control of Afghanistan and gave shelter to Osama bin Laden as he planned the 9/11 attacks. If we leave too soon, Iraq may become the new haven for terrorists. It could also be taken over by another Saddam-type leader or by fundamentalist clerics such as in Iran. In any of these cases, it would only create a situation where we have to re-invade and start the process all over again. And next time, we likely won't have the military bases or any world support to launch an attack.
- The bloodshed currently confined to Iraq could spread to neighboring countries, resulting in not just an Iraqi civil war, but a Sunni-Shiite regional civil war. Remember, there are plenty of fanatical Sunnis and Shiites in neighboring countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, etc. The killing could easily spill over the border as Sunnis in these countries try to help their Sunni allies in Iraq, while Shiites try to do the same. Imagine the number of deaths that would result from a regional civil war where hundreds of millions of Muslims currently live. Can you think of any way the U.S. military could re-establish stability in such a scenario?
- It gives the U.S. military a chance to hunt down and kill terrorists. Whether you believe terrorists were in Iraq before the war or not, there is definitely no disputing the fact that they currently are there now. The many vicious, direct attacks on civilians are not the work of "insurgents". They are the work of bloodthirsty, heartless murderers who want nothing more than to impose their ruthless Taliban-style rule on the world. In Iraq, we have a chance to send armed, specially trained warriors to take them out where they live and breed.
- It would give Al Qaeda a symbolic victory and become the basis of future recruiting propaganda. Osama bin Laden's own recruiting videos cite the examples of Vietnam, Beirut, and Somalia as evidence of America's tendency to cut-and-run when the going gets tough. The terrorist attacks on innocent Iraqi civilians have no other purpose than to manipulate the news media and weaken the will of the American public. If we retreat once again before the job is done, it would provide the best example yet of how terrorism works. It would reinforce the Al Qaeda propaganda that America is indeed a "paper tiger" that doesn't have the will to fight.
- It would invite similar terrorist/guerilla tactics in future wars since the tactics resulted in a victory that a conventional military couldn't achieve over the U.S. military. There is no military in the world that even comes close to matching the U.S. military. Our superior technology, training, and funds make it simply impossible for another conventional military to defeat us. Indeed, given the recent examples in Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf, it's very doubtful any country would even try. However, Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups have found a way that the American superpower can be defeated. If we cave once again, these brutal terrorist tactics will become the basis of all future wars. Murder and torture of innocent people will become the standard.
- As long as we stay, Iran (the leading terrorist-sponsor state) will face the pressure of being surrounded by American troops, and Iraq will provide another launching base if we're forced to invade. Think back to before the launch of this second Iraq War. One of the main reasons for invading was that Saddam kicked out U.N. weapons inspectors for several years. In 2002, he let them back in. Did he suddenly have a change of heart and wanted to do the right thing? Or could it have been the hundreds of thousands of American troops ready to move in if he didn't comply? Iran has become as least as big of a threat to world peace as Saddam. Obviously, it would be much better if we were able to stop its nuclear program and support of terrorist groups without another war. However, Iran needs a little bit of legitimate pressure to solve things peacefully. Otherwise, what is the incentive to stop its actions? As long as U.S. troops are in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have the rogue country surrounded. Although we may currently have a limited capacity to invade, the worry is still in the back of the minds of Iranian leaders.
- It's giving American troops valuable guerilla-war training that may be useful if the U.S. must engage terrorists in other hot spots around the world. Conventional wars dominated by tanks, planes, and massive infantry forces are likely a thing of the past. Guerilla, terrorist street fighting is likely to become the norm. The Iraq War is giving American troops hands-on training for this new type of war. This training may become even more critical in the future if we are forced to invade Iran or if we must, God forbid, engage terrorists in this type of combat on our own soil. After 9/11, we all know that no area of the world is completely safe.
- If we withdraw, the terrorists currently fighting American troops will likely be dispersed to civilian Western targets. High-ranking Al Qaeda leaders have called Iraq their central and most important battle. Many of the most hateful, vicious terrorists in the world are engaged in Iraq. Which is better, having these terrorists target innocent civilians on our own soil, or having these terrorists engage armed, highly-trained soldiers in Iraq? Where do you think these terrorist insurgents will go if American troops leave Iraq? Will they start businesses, go to medical school, get 9-5 jobs, or make some other productive contribution to society? Just maybe there are some good reasons why we haven't suffered a terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. Maybe these terrorists have something else occupying their time.
- Iraqis who have supported and helped Americans could face death or torture. We wouldn't have been able to set up a democratic government or make the progress we have without the cooperation of many Iraqi officials. Unfortunately, if we leave too soon, these helpful citizens may face a backlash from the terrorist insurgents, and we won't be around to protect them. Remember, this is a population that lived in constant fear of Saddam retribution.
- American troops remain in the heart of the terrorist breeding ground, the Middle East, and can thus be easily deployed to Syria, Iran, etc. if the need arises. The current Islamofascist War didn't arise from movements in Canada, Germany, or Australia. It grew in the heart of the Muslim world--the Middle East. As such, the wars we likely will have to fight now and in the future remain in that area. Having troops based in Iraq allows us easy access to Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other Muslim-dominated countries stirring up anti-American hate. Just having the threat of American troops just a heartbeat away may by itself be enough to prevent the next great war.
- Iraqi civilians may fear retribution once American troops leave and will therefore be unwilling to help us further in our battle against terrorist insurgents. The terrorist insurgents that are targetting civilians and stirring up trouble are tough to defeat simply because they are embedded in the population of Iraq. Unlike our enemies, we do everything we can to minimize the loss of innocent life. Thus, it is critical to find Iraqi civilians to tell us where to find these terrorists. However, if we leave Iraq in its precarious position, these helpful people are likely to become prime targets for torture or death. In fact, even the discussion of a premature troop withdrawal may be enough to keep Iraqis from helping us, making the stabilization much more difficult.
- Oil prices could skyrocket if Iraq becomes more unstable, leading to $5/gallon gas prices and a major recession of the world economy. A war should never be fought simply for economic reasons. However, any person that has contact with reality no that Iraq plays a critical role in the price of oil and the world economy. Iraq is a gigantic supplier of oil. Thus, the laws of supply and demand say anything that negatively affects supply will drive the price up. If an all-out civil war erupts, oil prices may just skyrocket to the point that we must pay $5 per gallon for gas. Setting aside the huge impact of those gas prices on the average American family, imagine what that would do to the world economy. Inflation and interest rates would go through the roof. Consumer spending would plummet. Unemployment would rise, leading to bigger government deficits. And the negative effects on the U.S. and world economy would snowball from there. Economists will tell you one of the best "leading indicators" on the state of the economy is the U.S. stock market. Watch the price drop in the stock market that happens with every uptick in the price of oil. And remember, the economies of the world are no longer isolated; they are intertwined. Thus, we would likely face not only a U.S. recession in the event of an Iraqi civil war, but a world recession.
Related LinksInternational Debate Education Association: Withdrawal from Iraq
Iraq Withdrawal: Seven Scenarios
US-Iraq ProCon.org: Should the U.S. Have Attacked Iraq?
Iraq Exit Strategies: Pros and Cons
About.com: Pros and Cons of Withdrawal
Global Policy Forum: No Good Options for Iraq
Iraq War Pre-War Debate: Pros and Cons
Written by: Joe Messerli
Page Last Updated: 05/22/2011