2.23.2007

Dr. James Fearon explains why the U.S. can't win in Iraq

In Why the U.S. Can't Win Iraq's Civil War (Foreign Affairs - March/April '07), Dr. James of Fearon, a political scientist at Stanford University and an expert on civil wars, makes the most reasoned political and moral case for U.S. withdrawal from the Iraq War.

These are his major points:
1) In fact, there is a civil war in progress in Iraq, one comparable in important respects to other civil wars that have occurred in post colonial states with weak political institutions. [Additionally, the] average duration for civil wars since 1945 has been about ten years.

2) [Post colonial civil wars] suggest that the Bush administration's political objective in Iraq -- creating a stable, peaceful, somewhat democratic regime that can survive the departure of U.S. troops -- is unrealistic.

3) Given this unrealistic political objective, military strategy of any sort is doomed to fail almost regardless of whether the administration goes with the "surge" option, as President George W. Bush has proposed, or shifts toward a pure training mission, as advised by the Iraq Study Group.

4) As long as the Bush administration remains absolutely committed to propping up the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki or a similarly configured successor, the U.S. government will have limited leverage with almost all of the relevant parties.

5) By contrast, moving away from absolute commitment -- for example, by beginning to shift U.S. combat troops out of the central theaters -- would increase U.S. diplomatic and military leverage on almost all fronts.