In a memo that has been made public by The Times, Col. Timothy Reese, a senior American military adviser in Baghdad, calls “for the U.S. to declare victory and go home.” He argues that Iraqi forces are competent enough to handle internal threats to their government, and that extending the American military presence in Iraq beyond 2010 could fuel a growing resentment. Indeed, Colonel Reese, an author of an official Army history of the Iraq war, suggests that U.S. troops be withdrawn by August 2010, 15 months ahead of schedule.
A spokeswoman for Gen. Ray Odierno, the senior American commander in Iraq, said that the memo, which was written in early July, did not reflect the official stance of the U.S. military.
Although Colonel Reese’s stance might not be an official one, we asked some experts whether his view made sense.
Colonel Reese is saying what most soldiers under the rank of three stars know and think is the right course of action — leave Iraq sooner, rather than later. Colonel Reese is sounding the alarm that if we do not take the opportunity to leave now, we are in for a new round of pointless violence directed at American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in Iraq.
Large-scale American military occupations of non-Western societies to transform them into images of the West inevitably provoke resentment and breed violence; even when the U.S. pays $25 million a month in hard cash to the Sunni Arab insurgent forces not to fight.
Exporting democracy at gunpoint to Iraq has not only failed to create stability in the Middle East, it has made the United States and its allies less secure. Today, Iranian strategic influence trumps American strategic influence for good reason: Tehran’s agents of influence wear an indigenous face while America’s agents wear foreign uniforms and carry guns.
America’s decision to garrison Iraq was a serious strategic mistake. It’s time to reverse that mistake and, as Colonel Reese wisely argues, leave now, not later.