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|State of Pennsylvania||April 22, 2008 Election|
Stabilizing Iraq and Finding the Exit
By Bill CahirCandidate for US Representative; District 5; Democratic Party
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I believe we do need to get out of Iraq, because staying there for 100 years would radicalize young men throughout the Middle East. Staying in place would cause more terrorism in that neighborhood and around the globe. Staying there, with no exit strategy, would be counterproductive, doing more harm than good.I believe we do need to get out of Iraq, because staying there for 100 years, or forever, would radicalize young men throughout the Middle East. Staying in place would cause more terrorism in that neighborhood and around the globe. Staying there, with no exit strategy, would be counterproductive, doing more harm than good.
The question is what to do next. It's already clear that the next president and the next Congress are going to inherit Operation Iraqi Freedom. There likely will be something like 140,000 American troops on Iraqi soil in January 2009.
I'm proud to be a U.S. Marine, and a veteran. And I would serve in Iraq again if called to do so. I'm not complaining about the mission. I consider it among the highest honors in American life to be given an age waiver and be afforded a chance to serve in the Marine Corps during a time of war.
Having said that, I think we've lost sight of our end-state. We need lawmakers prepared to answer questions about what we're driving towards. What is our goal?
My answer would be: Get a new law passed to ensure oil revenues are being shared; urge the Iraqis to hold provincial elections, where possible, in 2008 and 2009; and transition security operations to Iraqi authorities. Then we must launch what I would call Operation Homeward Bound.
That would mean bringing troops home according to a gradual plan, and with a calendar that afforded the next president some flexibility to respond to security situations in different provinces.
For instance, if the Sunni sheikhs in al Anbar Province want us to stay for a bit longer as a stabilizing force, we should listen to and consider their request.
Our final answer must be clear. Young men all over the Middle East are listening to the siren song of Jihad. We're going to stop playing the music.
We should base our new policy upon three principles: Protecting our allies inside Iraq; promoting the security of our allies in Turkey, Jordan and Israel; and doing what's best for the long run instead of just pulling up stakes and marching out.
President Bush has said he's going to finish the Surge. The next president and the next Congress need to transition the mission to Iraqis themselves, and stage our exit as security conditions allow.
Our national interest, reducing the threat of terrorism, is best served by bringing our troops home. Even if the Iraqi government that we leave behind isn't perfect, and even if the threat of sectarian violence is high, we can't settle every dispute by keeping American personnel bogged down in tribal politics, religious wars, and neighborhood vendettas. That will cause more problems than it solves.
Candor is a key leadership trait. The courage of our fighting men and women demands our honesty here at home. We need to tell the hard truth to ourselves: Historically, we have not been a colonial power in the Middle East. We do not seek to become one. And we do not have any special right to Iraqi oil. Worse yet, we have not deployed a force anywhere near the sufficient size to police all of the religious, economic and sectarian disputes in Iraq.
After five years of warfare, our best interests happen to coincide closely with our values. That means we must attempt to stabilize Iraq, and bring our military personnel home to their families, while working with our allies to promote the human and civil rights of all people throughout the region.
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