A Nation's Politics Can Evolve

By Rami G. Khouri
Sunday, December 11, 2005

BEIRUT The single most important thing Iraq needs today is a politically legitimate government, from which security and other attributes of national and social normalcy would follow. America's military presence, and its political intervention in Iraq, are the main obstacles to such a government and to a secure society in that country. Withdrawing U.S. military forces would prod and push Iraqis to agree more quickly on an inclusive and, ideally, democratic governance system.

A continued American military presence only generates more attacks from Iraqis who see themselves as resistance fighters, and by Abu Musab Zarqawi and his band of jihadi terrorists, who are inspired in large part by a desire to liberate this part of the Islamic realm from foreign military occupation. Washington's most practical move would be to announce that it is starting an immediate but gradual withdrawal of its troops, and that it does not intend to maintain long-term military bases in Iraq. Such a strategy could start to reverse the seven key dimensions of the lingering, low-intensity catastrophe that has resulted from U.S. military and political domination of Iraq. Among a variety of beneficial consequences, it would:

return national sovereignty to Iraqis.

generate political legitimacy for a government by and for Iraqis, one not choreographed by American vice consuls like L. Paul Bremer, John Negroponte or the current U.S. ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad.

reassert day-to-day security and ensure delivery of basic services, as an American withdrawal would likely reduce attacks against infrastructure facilities such as oil, electricity and water networks.

reverse the current, often American-prompted national fragmentation into ethnic and religious subgroups and their militias.

reduce meddling by powerful neighbors -- especially Iran, Syria and Turkey -- some of whom see a chaotic, violent Iraq as the best way to resist the United States. An American withdrawal could trigger their cooperation on stabilizing Iraq and perhaps also on a regional security system, partly because Washington would have new incentives to improve ties with those it now confronts for the sake of leaving behind a stable rather than a shattered Iraq.

promote vital Arab and international engagement and assistance. Europeans, Arabs, Turks, Indians and many others would respond more generously to invitations to work for reconstruction in Iraq if such calls came from the United Nations or an Iraqi government not installed and protected by American guns and tanks.

quickly reduce, then end, anti-American and anti-Iraqi terrorism and insurgency by many differently motivated groups from the Middle East and beyond (as evidenced by a recent female Belgian suicide bomber).

The neocon-driven American fantasy strategy in Iraq brought together a peculiarly American form of intellectual terrorism and an unprecedented and deadly combination of exported arrogance and ordnance. Announcing the imminent end of this strategic atrocity is probably the only feasible way to bring Iraq back to normal -- and perhaps also to bring America back to normal.

Author's e-mail: rgskhouri@hotmail.com

Rami Khouri is a syndicated columnist and editor-at-large of the Beirut-based regional newspaper the Daily Star.

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