Since everyone else seems to be blathering
about what we should do about Iraq, I am in no danger of distinguishing myself as a fool by commenting on the issue.
First, since the US Government is currently unable to walk and chew gum at the same time, calls for immediate withdrawal are not at all unreasonable. Those who glibly say "We broke it, we bought it," do not seem to understand that every day we are breaking more and more homes, lives, and bodies.
But suppose the US Government were not totally corrupt and venal. What would the best course of action be? In that event, abrupt withdrawal would not be the best option. One can forecast that withdrawal would presage a genuine civil war (as opposed to the present situation, in which Iraqis are basically united against the US). There are massive needs for reconstruction monies. Certainly the US would not approve those after being forced to withdraw. The US itself (but especially the developing nations) would be hurt as oil markets were destabilized. So, abrupt withdrawal would end US violence against Iraqis, but would have its own downside
And then there is the question of whether the real terrorists would not be emboldened to go after Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and other nations. As much as critics like Chomsky like to deride the US obsession with "credibility," US power represses not only freedom but also long-simmering rivalries. If US repression were to falter, conflicts and revolutions would erupt over much of the globe. So, abrupt withdrawal from Iraq could have the same effect as opening a pressure cooker under full steam.
There is a better way, but it would require a better US government. The key steps are these.
1. Trust is broken. It can only be re-established by making it clear that the US presence in Iraq is temporary. Base construction and the looting of the Iraqi oil industry should cease. Oil revenues should be nationalized until a genuine Iraqi government is in place.
2. The "Salvador option", of supporting death squads and other repressive secret police must cease immediately. People like John Negroponte need to be removed from authority (and ideally sent to replace a declining population in Guantanamo).
3. US troops should be replaced by Arab/Muslim troops for all police functions. My guess is that there are enough former Egyptian, Jordanian, and Indonesian policemen-- or troops who could be trained for police duties-- to fill the gap within a few months. Then there could be genuine training of an Iraqi police force.
4. Basic services need to be restored immediately. That means turning over control of the electric grid and water pumping to Iraqi engineers and those engineers need to be provided strong security. Sanitation needs to be restored promptly. US and European medical personnel should temporarily replace Iraqi medical personnel, who the resistance is driving out of the country.
5. Finally, the puppet government has no credibility. There should be real elections. These should begin at the local level, with all local autonomy being immediately ceded. The US should temporarily handle national control. A preliminary constitution should treat Iraq as a confederacy, in which each region retains veto power over any national constitution.
6. The US should commit to pay $60B of reparations to rebuild infrastructure and train a new generation of professionals.
US forces are needed to guard Iraq's borders against external rivals such as Iran, to prevent importation of weapons to continue the conflict, and to allow Iraq to gain control over its own commerce, notably oil. There is absolutely no reason for US forces to be searching houses or performing basic police functions.
I think this is what the Kerry plan was. I don't know, of course. But he is intelligent enough to have seen these issues.