Why not have the Iraqis vote on whether US forces should stay or leave?
This is a question I’ve been kicking around for quite some time. I know I’ve posted it on other sites in the past (possibly years ago) , but my searching for a link came up empty. I know that I’m not the only one who has proposed this, though. In fact, during the search for my own comments, I discovered that this concept has been put forth my members of both the left and the right. The most recent time I heard it somewhere other than my own head was when Dennis Prager said it on the radio a little while ago. In light of all the talk about the report on those Iraqi “benchmarks”, I thought this would make an excellent topic for debate on my blog, so here goes…
Consider all the hyping that Bush and the gang has done on the “historic” elections that sent “millions of Iraqis” to the ballots as a sign that the vast majority of them embrace freedom and democracy. Well, I think it may be time for another one of those “historic” moments. But unlike Jonah Goldberg, I think either outcome would be a winning scenario.
If the Iraqis say “leave”, we win. Or, more accurately, we don’t “lose”. All the talk about victory and defeat would be cast aside, since our leaving would be dictated by a vote rather than something that happened on the battlefield. In other words, democracy wins, not al Qaeda. It’s certainly a better way to end the occupation than cutting off funding or just pulling out under political pressure. It would also silence those in the Middle East (or elsewhere) who claim we invaded for oil or as an assault on Islam, as well as anyone who wanted to blame us for the consequences of the pullout. Our troops can come home with dignity knowing that Saddam is dead, the WMD threat is gone, and they’ve helped the Iraqi people to the best of their abilities. Americans at home will be glad to see them back.
If the Iraqis say “stay”, we win. Overnight, we’ll find ourselves armed with a renewed sense of legitimacy in the eyes of ordinary Americans, our troops, the Iraqis, and the world. It would also marginalize and frustrate the insurgency, as they would now be faced with the realization that they are the unwanted ones (something that in and of itself may bring the conflict to an end sooner). In Washington, the war could no longer be used as a political punching bag, and probably mend some of the divisions that have opened over this whole thing.
Of course, there are those who would look at the outcome in a political context here domestically (good for the Dems, bad for the Repubs, etc.), but if we can get past that it’s kind of hard to find downsides in this idea, at least from a purely idealist standpoint. There are probably elements or considerations that I’m not thinking of, however, so I encourage readers to voice your opinion on this.