What is the moral course in Iraq?

George Packer can hardly be described as a supporter of the war in Iraq, but in his latest article for The New Yorker, he both skewers the architects of the war, and poses some difficult questions for those who favor a rapid pullout.

On the one hand, he writes:

[T]he inadequacy of the surge is already clear, if one honestly assesses the daily lives of Iraqis. Though the streets of Baghdad are marginally less lethal than they were during 2006, sixty thousand Iraqis a month continue to leave their homes, according to the International Organization for Migration, joining the two million who have become refugees and the two million others displaced inside Iraq. The militias, which have become less conspicuous as they wait out the surge, are nevertheless growing in strength, as they extend their control over neighborhoods like Ahmed’s. In the backstreets, the local markets, the university classrooms, and other realms beyond the reach of American observers or American troops, there is no rule of law, only the rule of the gun. The lives of most Iraqis are dominated by a complex array of militias and criminal gangs that are ruthlessly competing with one another, and whose motives for killing are more often economic or personal than religious or ideological. A recent report by the International Crisis Group urged the American and British governments to acknowledge that their “so-called Iraqi partners, far from building a new state, are tirelessly working to tear it down.”

On the other hand, he finds all of the "quick exit" strategies being advocated on the left shortsighted and superficial.

Comments (4)

Riverbend and her family left in early September - a heartbreaking blog from the early days of the war to today. In the beginning she was full of hope - as the US presence became more and more oppressive - you can see her sink away from hope.

If folks want to read contemporary accounts of daily life from Iraq (comparable to Riverbend's) check out the blog written by the Iraqi reporters of McClatchy News at Inside Iraq.

As for the moral course for the United States: we broke it and we are not fixing it and cannot fix it. We've committed a crime. I continue to believe what a wise Jordanian told me in Amman in 2006: "My solution may be brutal, but I believe the U.S. must leave completely. Iraq will have a difficult rebirth; it may take 10 or 15 years. But Iraq has enough heritage to recover, to stand on its own two feet. There is no other way."

Jan Adams

In the run-up to the Iraq War, George Packer was a supporter of the war. It's good that he's now seen the light, but why should we listen to him about the withdrawal? He was wrong before.

Jan Adams is correct. I think Packer is again wrong about the quick exit. Iraqis cannot begin to rebuild their society as long as we remain as an occupying power.

Violence may well increase immediately after our departure, but the Iraqis have no chance for recovery as long as we are there.

We have committed a crime in Iraq, and we owe them major help in humanitarian and recovery aid once we are out of their country.

June Butler

The moral course cannot be separated from the question of whether the surge is working or not.

An MIT economist (Michael Greenstone) looks very closely at the direct evidence writes and concludes it is more mixed than Packer's assessment. But he also looks at indirectly evidence: "After the Surge, there is a sharp decline in the price of those bonds, relative to alternative bonds. The decline signaled a 40% increase in the market's expectation that Iraq will default. This finding suggests that to date the Surge is failing to pave the way toward a stable Iraq and may in fact be undermining it."

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