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Time to let Iraqis decide own destiny

The November election will decide who will control Congress for the next two years, and, according to President Bush, it is a referendum on our policy in Iraq. Most Americans now believe getting into Iraq was a mistake but that is becoming a question for history.
Our military has done everything we have a right to ask of them and a good deal more. To date, they have not succeeded probably because the situation is in the final analysis, a form of civil war which does not lend itself to foreign intervention.
So how do we conclude this messy adventure with the least damage to ourselves? None of the choices before us are very attractive. The Republicans say it’s more of the same until at some unknown point in the future it works. The Democrats are all over the place but generally come down to the idea of setting a date in the future and then turning the whole messy situation over to the Iraqis.
Both these positions can be attacked on several fronts. The Republicans are throwing blood and treasure at a lost cause. They are tying up American forces that are needed in Afghanistan and may be needed soon in other hot spots.
On the other hand, the Democrats are giving the insurgents hope that if they just fight on, they will win. Or that we are confronting terror in Iraq and if we don’t do it there, they will be figuring out how to plant bombs in Cincinnati. It’s a weird echo of the debates about the Vietnam War.
As in Vietnam, we tend to forget that in civil wars the people of the nation involved do the deciding on who wins. Iraq’s future will be decided by 24 million Iraqis and not 140,000 Americans, no matter how heavily armed. Having said that, it seems the Democratic position with all its messiness and danger is the one that more closely reflects reality.
The country may come apart into three entities ‘ Shia, Sunni and Kurd ‘ or it may remain a single semi-democratic state. Iranian influence may be significant or it may dwindle. The power of radical Islamists may wax or wane. There are many possible scenarios but whatever happens, we have given Iraqis the opportunity to decide their own destiny. So let’s set a date and let them get about it.
If we embark on this course we will have to listen at least in the short run to lots of crowing from Iran and al-Qaeda and their supporters on how they have America on the run as well as lengthy discussions in the media about America’s waning influence. So be it. In the long run, realism is more valuable than rhetoric.