Monday, November 20, 2006

Next steps in Iraq

I would like to write more about my own ideas on Iraq in the near future, but for now I recommend (with one reservation) this post from Suzanne Nossel at Democracy Arsenal. It's a good summary of various policy options that ends up with this prescription:

In short, develop a withdrawal scenario that includes whatever steps can reasonably be taken to minimize the chaos in our wake. A regional conference, talks with Syria and Iran, improved training and reconstruction efforts, political mediation and efforts to bolster the security of less violent regions should all be part of the package. To the extent we can engage Iraq's neighbors as well as any other global powers who are willing to step up to the plate and help us and Iraq, we should. We should be honest with ourselves and with the Iraqis about what we are doing and why, acknowledging all of the above rather than pretending that we're handing off a country that's in better shape than it is. But we should commit to getting out of there regardless of how the diplomacy and mediation progress. //Our exit should be as responsible and forthright as our entrance was wanton and misleading.

It's difficult to say if that's really a policy prescription at all--be honest and talk to people, get our troops out and hope for the best--but it might be the best that's possible at this point.

Nossel's point #7, however, I would like to take issue with:

7. Folding Iraq into a broader quest for Middle East peace won't solve the crisis any quicker
Okay--it might not lead to an immediate decrease in tensions in Iraq, but for the long term (and any policy with the goal of a stable and free Iraq will have to look at the long term) a comprehensive overhaul of our policies toward the Palestinians, and the Muslims in general, is one of the best things we can do to help our position in the Middle East. We need to recognize that the US does not have a mere public relations problem in the Middle East. We need to change our policies, not just the perception of our policies, in order to play a more constructive role in the Islamic world, and to start reducing the fuel of religious fanaticism.

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