Momentarily stem your feelings about the Iraq War. Whether you agree with our presence in the area or not, realize that we are there. We should make certain that we do not leave Iraq as an unstable regime that could collapse into oblivion. It could create an enemy for the United States in the future, just as the Shah’s deposition created an enemy out of Iran. The Iraqi security forces must be able to maintain order before the U.S. military can withdraw from Iraq.
In 1953, the British and U.S. governments deposed Prime Minister Mossadegh of Iran and instituted the Shah Pahlevi. The Iranian people did not respect the legitimacy of the Shah government, deposed him and instituted Ayatollah Khomeini, who was a major thorn in the U.S.’s side, especially during the Iranian Hostage Crisis. The Iranian government remains one of the U.S.’s most dangerous enemies.
The Shah was unable to stabilize the country, which led to his deposition. The U.S. did not consider the people’s ability to overthrow the Shah. That is why it would be unwise to leave Iraq prematurely. We must make sure that the Iraqi military and security forces can preserve stability so the country does not degenerate into anarchy or so that the people do not institute a leader who is less palatable than Saddam was.
If we withdraw before the Iraqi military can maintain order, then we run the risk of allowing the Iraqi Parliament to be overthrown as the Shah was. This would either create another enemy in the Middle East for us or total anarchy would ensue – warlords would likely control the country as in Afghanistan and Somalia before the Islamic Courts Union. Either result would be a massive black eye for U.S. foreign policy and would severely damage U.S. credibility abroad.
Such a situation of warlord control would be an incubator for anti-U.S. terrorist activities. Al Qaeda would have free reign over former U.S.-controlled territory, an influx of Iraqi recruits and momentum against the United States in their global operation.
Uninhibited conflict in Iraq would also likely spread into neighboring countries, especially considering the similar ethnic populations in Syria, Iran and Turkey. The civil war in Sudan is beginning to spill over into Chad, and the same could happen to any state that borders Iraq.
All bordering states are vulnerable to infighting between their own Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish populations if the U.S. abdicates the occupation prematurely.
Occupying Iraq indefinitely would spread our military so thinly that we would not be able to deal swiftly with any future threats like North Korea. It would be wiser to allow Iraqi security to assume the responsibility and to maintain diplomatic ties rather than continue to occupy the country. This would lighten the strain on our military and also relieve us from continuing to deal with the dangerous insurgency.
Indefinite occupation would also strain already precarious U.S. relations with Iran and other Middle Eastern countries and damage the legitimacy of the Iraqi government in the eyes of its people.
They would see their government as weak and incapable of maintaining order without American presence; they would not respect it, and we would run the risk of wholesale popular revolt.
After decimating the former government, we have a responsibility to the Iraqi people to leave them with some manageable form of government for Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds to coexist with a relatively low level of violence.
If the U.S. military can prepare the Iraqi military and security forces to maintain order, we can then withdraw and enjoy an accomplished mission, an ally in the Middle East and international recognition for successfully nurturing a democracy in Iraq. Any other course of action would surely be disastrous for the reputation and the safety of the United States, the Middle East and, potentially, for the world.
Panzarella is a member ofthe class of 2009.