By: E&P Staff
For many months now, Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist and author, has been ridiculed by liberal bloggers for his continual suggestions, over the past three years, that things would turn around in Iraq… in another six months. Some created what they called the “FU” or Friedman Unit to represent any six-month period. One year, for example, would be “two FUs.”
Now Friedman, in a Friday column, has declared that it is time to set a firm date for withdrawal from Iraq.
He does this (behind the pay TimesSelect wall) after stating that while the Iraq Study Group proposals are fine, “they will only have a chance of being effective if we go one notch further and set a fixed date ? now ? for America to leave Iraq.
“The only hope of moving the factions inside Iraq, not to mention Syria and Iran, toward reconciliation is if we have leverage over them, which we now lack….Yes, yes, I know, the conventional wisdom is that if the U.S. sets a date to leave Iraq the whole Middle East will explode in a Shiite-Sunni war. Maybe, but maybe not.
“Let?s play this out. What happens if we set a date to leave? The war in Iraq will get worse, but for how long? Right now our troops are providing a floor under the civil war that allows some parties to behave outrageously or make impossible demands ? because they know that we won?t let things spin totally out of control. Would they behave more cautiously if they knew they had to pay retail for their madness? I?d like to find out.
“Moreover, while our presence in Iraq helps control the situation, it also aggravates it. For many Sunnis, and a growing number of Shiites, we?ve become ?occupiers? to be resisted. Our leaving will both unleash violence and eliminate violence.”
In addition, Friedman writes, “right now we are ‘Mr. Big’ in Iraq, soaking up all the popular anger. But the minute we?re gone, Iran becomes ‘Mr. Big’ and the age-old tensions between Iraqi Arab Shiites and Iranian Persian Shiites will surface. Iran and Moktada al-Sadr will be at each other?s throats.”
Finally, he notes, “As I?ve written before, our real choices in Iraq are 10 months or 10 years. Either we commit the resources to entirely rebuild the place over a decade, for which there is little support, or we tell everyone that we will be out within 10 months, or sooner, and we?ll deal with the consequences from afar. We need to start the timer ? today, now.
“As long as we?re in Iraq, Iraq implodes, and we absorb a lot of the pain. The minute we leave, Iraq explodes ? or at least no one can be sure it won?t ? and that is a real threat to the Iraqi factions and neighbors. Even facing that reality might not knock enough sense into them to compromise, but at least then they?ll have their medieval religious war without us.
“Only that threat will give us leverage.”