Zengerle wants to lead us into a set of rhetorical questions intended to make us more thoughtful about withdrawal. To work, however, rhetorical questions shouldn't have obvious answers.This whole line of argument -- "people should be honest with the consequences of withdrawal from Iraq" -- leaves me gasping. If we'd been honest about the consequences of invading Iraq in the first place, then we wouldn't be in this mess.
1. What are the consequences of America losing a war?
The same as the consequences of any other country losing a war, only far less so since the war was fought far away for reasons tangential to genuine US security interests.
2. What will it do to our position in the world?
The dreadful defeat will leave the US the most powerful country in the world.
Moreover, the argument that "things will be worse if the US leaves Iraq" manages to be both dubious in accuracy and utility at the same time. First of all, it could simply be untrue -- without the US there, the Shia militias might achieve a rapid victory in the Civil War and establish some kind of order. Any order, at this point, would be preferable to the status quo.
I'm not saying this will happen, but you can't simply assert that the US presence is keeping things from spinning out of control. There's certainly no historical evidence for it -- we've arrived at the current war of all against all in Iraq with an extremely heft US presence, and it clearly hasn't stopped us from getting here.
Which leads to the second point: the current trajectory of things in Iraq is horrible, and getting worse. This, I repeat, with a hefty US presence. Even if you assume the US is having a marginal positive effect on affairs in that country (the reverse could be true) it is quite clearly not enough to change the direction things are headed. At best, Americans are lightly braking the bloodletting, not stopping it, nor even keeping it from accelerating.
So whatever horrible things are going to happen in Iraq will probably happen anyway, just on a different timetable depending on the US presence. Say, for example, that the end point in Iraq is some Bosnian ethnic division between Sunni, Shia, and Kurd. Is it worth 500 American lives, or 1,000, to make sure that this happens in 2009 instead of 2008?
I've been saying this since I started this blog -- the US does not control affairs in Iraq, and hasn't since at least the spring/summer of 2004.
Which means they should get out. The President has the authority to spend soldiers' lives, but only on the condition that the objectives are achievable and in the national interest of the United States. Iraq is neither, and Bush doesn't have the right to squander human beings simply to keep from being the guy who lost Iraq.