krumm on withdrawal

Bob Krumm, in discussing Bill Richardson’s plan for Iraq (which I have not read), says:

If you think that it is hard for America to get international support for our position in Iraq now, just imagine how much more difficult it will be once we tell the world that we’re gone and we’re not coming back.

I think this is wrong - our current (and unchanging) position in Iraq is precisely what is responsible for our lack of leverage or international support in just about every corner. The prospect of our withdrawal is precisely what could buy us some actual diplomatic leverage. There’s a great article in the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs (which may as well be called the “No Really, There Really Is A Civil War In Iraq, You Dolts” issue), which discusses exactly this:

To avail itself of more attractive policy options, the Bush administration (or its successor) must break off its unconditional military support for the Shiite-dominated government that it helped bring to power in Baghdad. Washington’s commitment to Maliki’s government undermines U.S. diplomatic and military leverage with almost every relevant party in the country and the region. Starting to move away from this commitment by shifting combat troops out of the central theaters could, accordingly, increase U.S. leverage with almost all parties. The current Shiite political leadership would then have incentives to try to gain back U.S. military support by, for example, making more genuine efforts to incorporate Sunnis into the government or reining in Shiite militias. (Admittedly, whether it has the capacity to do either is unclear.) As U.S. troops departed, Sunni insurgent groups would begin to see the United States less as a committed ally of the “Persians” and more as a potential source of financial or even military backing. Washington would also have more leverage with Iran and Syria, because the U.S. military would not be completely bogged down in Baghdad and Anbar Province – and because both of those countries have a direct interest in avoiding increased chaos in Iraq.

Again, none of this would make for a quick end to the civil war, which will probably last for some time in any event. But it would allow the United States to move toward a balancing role that would be more conducive to ultimately gaining a stable resolution in which Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish interests are represented in a decent Iraqi government.