Obama: The best chance for Iraq is to bring American troops home

Barack Obama has an op-ed in The Guardian (which is an excerpt from an upcoming article in Foreign Affairs). Here’s an excerpt from the excerpt:

To renew American leadership in the world, we must first bring the Iraq war to a responsible end and refocus our attention on the broader Middle East. Iraq was a diversion from the fight against the terrorists who struck us on 9/11, and incompetent prosecution of the war by America’s civilian leaders compounded the strategic blunder of choosing to wage it in the first place. We have now lost over 3,300 American lives, and thousands more suffer wounds both seen and unseen.

The best chance we have to leave Iraq a better place is to pressure these warring parties to find a lasting political solution. And the only effective way to apply this pressure is to begin a phased withdrawal of US forces, with the goal of removing all combat brigades from Iraq by March 31 2008 – consistent with the goal set by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. But we must recognise that, in the end, only Iraqi leaders can bring real peace and stability to their country.

At the same time, we must launch a comprehensive regional and international diplomatic initiative to help broker an end to the civil war in Iraq, prevent its spread, and limit the suffering of the Iraqi people. To gain credibility in this effort, we must make clear that we seek no permanent bases in Iraq.

Changing the dynamic in Iraq will allow us to focus our attention and influence on resolving the festering conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians – a task that the Bush administration neglected for years.

Our starting point must always be a clear and strong commitment to the security of Israel, our strongest ally in the region and its only established democracy. That commitment is all the more important as we contend with growing threats in the region – a strengthened Iran, a chaotic Iraq, the resurgence of al-Qaida, the reinvigoration of Hamas and Hizbullah. Now more than ever we must strive to secure a lasting settlement of the conflict with two states living side by side in peace and security.

Throughout the Middle East, we must harness American power to reinvigorate American diplomacy. Tough-minded diplomacy, backed by the whole range of American power – political, economic and military – could bring success even when dealing with long-standing adversaries such as Iran and Syria.

Although we must not rule out military force, we should not hesitate to talk directly to Iran. Our diplomacy should aim to raise the cost for Iran of continuing its nuclear programme by applying tougher sanctions and increasing pressure from its key trading partners. The world must work to stop Iran’s uranium-enrichment programme and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It is far too dangerous to have nuclear weapons in the hands of a radical theocracy. At the same time, we must show Iran – and especially the Iranian people – what could be gained from fundamental change: economic engagement, security assurances and diplomatic relations. Diplomacy combined with pressure could also reorient Syria from its radical agenda to a more moderate stance – which could, in turn, help stabilise Iraq, isolate Iran, free Lebanon from the grip of Damascus, and better secure Israel.

Finally, we need a comprehensive strategy to defeat global terrorists – one that draws on the full range of American power, not just our military might. As a senior US military commander put it, when people have dignity and opportunity, “the chance of extremism being welcomed greatly, if not completely, diminishes”. It is for this reason that we need to invest with our allies in strengthening weak states and helping to rebuild failed ones.

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1 Comment

  1. 1
    Chuck says:

    Pressuring political parties to come to agreement by threatening to leave is one thing. Doing it by actually leaving is quite another. Even Rumsfeld had said that the longer we stay, the more toxic we are to the political process. In the meantime, it appears that Iraqis want us gone; just not yet.

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