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Op-Ed: When Can We Leave Iraq?

By KJ Mullins     Mar 20, 2008 in World
Much of the current election has focused on the war in Iraq and how quickly the United States can get the troops back home. But is that possible? If the troops leave will they be considered winners?
In war there generally is a side that can claim victory. In modern wars though at times there are no clear victors. In wars that the process is to clear an 'evil' regime out of office is the victor the one that does that or the people left to pick up the pieces?
In Iraq can a victory be claimed at any point? Yes Hussein is gone and buried but peace is far from the scope of the everyday life of those left in that nation. The United States troops have seen multiple causalities.
When the war started close on the heels of the 9/11 tragedy most Americans wanted to rid the world of the evil that was Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. Those weapons though were a smoke screen. Asked five years later and the average American is mixed on whether or not the troops should be in the Middle East fighting a battle that's perhaps not ours to fight.
Only 28 percent of Americans know the actual body count of the troops. It may just be a sign of the times that the American people are starting to block out Iraq from their general mindset.
"It's just become a mess, and I don't think there's an easy end to it, so we're going to end up in a quagmire," says Ben Lem, a Boston-area cafe owner.
While citizen support of the war was high in the beginning now the bottom line is a nation that may just well be questioning if the US invasion was the right choice. As the United States image becomes more and more tarnished overseas is there any way that the US can come out of Iraq with their heads held high and looking like the victors?
We are in a period of rising isolationism, just as we saw a bump in isolationism after the war in Vietnam in the '70s," said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, at a Center for Strategic and International Studies seminar in Washington on March 12.
With the war now in the fifth war it is clear that not only has Iraq changed during that time but also the United States along with it.
I sometimes wish we could bring [the troops] home and put them on our border to solve our own problems here," Sharon Howden of Mesa, Ariz. says. "But then sometimes it's necessary to help other people."
The question now that many ask is can the troops leave an unstable region or should they stay until stability has been obtained.
The US has spent billions of dollars bombing Iraq and then attempting to repair it, adds Brett Smith, a Mesa jewelry retailer. Yet major US cities are themselves wrecks, he says, and homelessness is chronic.
"I just think America tries to govern the world, and it seems like other countries don't do that.... We've just got our noses in too many other people's business," Mr. Smith says.
That sentiment is heard often in the United States. The candidates have been responding to thoughts like that as they pound the election trail. Promises are being made right and left as to when the troops will be coming home. The collective answer appears to be 'not soon' if you read between the lines.
John McCain, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton
all have a shot at sitting in the Oval Office. They all will face the crisis in Iraq. The three each have plans to bring the troops home at some point but each of those plans will take time.
Obama wants the troops gone by the end of 2009. His plan is to remove one or two combat brigades a month. Soldiers would remain a presence though by protecting the American embassy, to fight al-Qaeda if need be and he wants to "reserve" the right" to re-enter Iraq if a genocide were to begin.
Clinton's plan is much of the same. One or two brigades home per month but leave behind “small, elite strike forces” to fight off the terrorists. Her plan leaves a presence of troops behind for a longer period of time than Obama's.
Both of the Democrats though promise a diplomatic push to have the United Nations and Middle Eastern neighbours of Iraq to help with the withdraw of troops. Considering that European allies have not been willing in the past to help on this may make their plans a failure before they even begin.
McCain visited Iraq just this week to show his interest in foreign affairs. If he is elected don't plan on welcoming masses of the troops home. He has said that America may have bases in Iraq for 100 years while it finishes the job up.
How may more soldiers will have their lives blood stain the soil before a decision has been made? When the next president takes office it will be approaching the sixth year mark. That's a lot of blood stains in the wait of an answer.
Is there a victor in this war or will the blood on the streets cry out of deaths taken in vain?
More about Iraq, Winners, Can leave
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