Getting Out of Iraq

In the Boston Review, Barry Posen offers an plan to disengage from Iraq in 18 months. (with responses from Sen. Joseph Biden, Barbara Bodine, Vivek Chibber, Helena Cobban, Juan Cole, Sen. Russell Feingold, Randall Forsberg, Chris Preble, Nir Rosen, and Eliot Weinberger to come next month)

The United States needs a new strategy in Iraq and the Persian Gulf. The war is at best a stalemate; the large American presence now causes more trouble than it prevents. We must disengage from Iraq—and we must do it by removing most American and allied military units within 18 months. Though disengagement has risks and costs, they can be managed. The consequences would not be worse for the United States than the present situation, and capabilities for dealing with them are impressive, if properly employed.

Some people argue that the United States should disengage because the war was a mistake in the first place, or because it is morally wrong. I do not propose to pass judgment on these questions one way or the other. My case for disengagement is different: it is forward-looking and based on American national interests. The war as it has evolved (and is likely to evolve) badly serves those interests. A well-planned disengagement will serve them much better by reducing military, economic, and political costs.