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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Thomas Friedman: Iraq Through China's Lens

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2007/09/thomas-friedman-iraq-through-chinas.html

Thomas Friedman: Iraq Through China's Lens

 
Something is out of balance with America today. Looking at the world from here, it is hard not to feel that China has spent the last six years training for the Olympics while we've spent ourselves into debt on iPods and Al Qaeda.

After 9/11, we tried to effect change in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world by trying to build a progressive government in Baghdad. There was, I believed, a strategic and moral logic for that.

But the strategy failed, for a million different reasons, and now it is time to recognize that and focus on how we insulate ourselves from the instability of that world — by having a real energy policy, for starters — how we protect our security interests there in more sustainable ways and how we get back to developing our own house.

By now it should be clear that Iraq is going to be what it is going to be. We've never had sufficient troops there to shape Iraq in our own image. We simply can't go on betting so many American soldiers and resources that Iraqis will one day learn to live together on their own — without either having to be bludgeoned by Saddam or baby-sat by us.

So either we get help or get out. That is, if President Bush believes staying in Iraq can still make a difference, then he needs to muster some allies because the American people are not going to sustain alone — nor should they — a long-shot bet that something decent can still be built in Baghdad.

If the president can't get help, then he has to initiate a phased withdrawal: now. Because the opportunity cost this war is exacting on our country and its ability to focus on anything else is out of all proportion to what might still be achieved in Iraq by our staying, with too few troops and too few friends.

Iraqis can add. The surge has brought more calm to Iraq largely because the mainstream Iraqi Sunnis finally calculated that they have lost and that both the pro-Al Qaeda Iraqi Sunnis and the radical Shiites are more of a threat to them than the Americans they had been shooting at.

The minute we start withdrawing, all Iraqis will carefully calculate their interests. They may decide that they want more blood baths, but there is just as much likelihood that they will eventually find equilibrium.


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