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With the twenty-first century, the world has witnessed a rise in fear on all sides of the globe, one that pits humans against humans, and country against country. From a NATO perspective, the Cold War has given a way to the War on Terror. Today, developed countries fear terrorist attacks, while many in the Middle East fear amoral, mindless consumerism and even bellicose, forcible takeovers spawned from developed countries.
Americans now have been at war with, or in, Iraq for almost ten years. Think of it as decades of experience, all bad. And what is it that Washington seems to have concluded? In Iraq, where Americans had, as George Friedman observed, decided that enough was enough and they should simply leave, the calls from a familiar crew for them to stay are growing louder by the weeks.
The Iraqis, so the Friedman goes to tell, need Americans. But the question he asked "whether the departure...is a significant milestone and, if it is, what it signifies". After all, if a feeler to gauge, who would leave them alone, trusting them not to do what they've done best in recent years: cut one another's throats? Modesty in Washington? Humility? The ability to draw new lessons from their long-term experiences? Friedman describes none of the above is markedly appropriate for this nation. None of the above is part of the American weapon store, not when Washington's weapon of choice, repeatedly consigned to the scrap heap of history and repeatedly rescued, remains a deep conviction that nothing is going to go anything but truly, deeply, madly badly without Americans, even if, as in Iraq, things have for years gone truly, deeply, madly bad with Americans.
George Friedman, with an expanding crew of journalists, is calling for the Obama administration to alter its plans, negotiated in the last months of the Bush administration, for the departure of all American troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. Friedman seems to have taken a belief in American's foresight - even prediction - to heart and so is basing his views on their ability to divine the future as pro-American.
The problem, to Friedman, is that, whatever may be happening in the present, Iraq's future prospects are horrifying, which makes leaving, if not beyond belief, then as massively irresponsible as invading in the first place. Without the US military on hand, they're told, the Iraqis will almost certainly deep-six democracy, while devolving into major civil violence and ethnic bloodletting, possibly of the sort that convulsed their country in 2005-6 when, by the way, the US military was present in force.
The various partial winners of Iraq's much delayed March 7, 2010 election would, Americans were assured beforehand, jockey for power for months trying to cobble together a functioning national government. During that period, violence, it was said, would surely escalate, potentially endangering the marginal gains made thanks to the U.S. military 'surge' in 2007. The possibilities remain endless and, according to Friedman, none of them are encouraging: Shiite militias could use withdrawal to stage a violence-filled comeback. Iranian interference in Iraqi affairs is likely to increase and violently so, while al-Qaeda-in-Iraq could move into any post-election power void with its own destructive agenda. As he further quoted, "Iranian intelligence has sufficient allies and resources in Iraq to guarantee the failure of any stabilization attempt that doesn't please Tehran".
Such predictions are now dribbling out of the world of punditry and into the world of news reporting, where the future threatens to become fact before it makes into the scene. Centcom commander General David Petraeus agreed that new negotiations might extend the U.S. position into the post-2011 years. And a chorus of the usual suspects, Friedman has been singing ever-louder version of a song warning of that greatest of all dangers: "Given all that has been said about the success of the Petraeus strategy, it must be observed that while it broke the cycle of violence and carved out a fragile stability in Iraq, it has not achieved, nor can it alone achieve, the political solution that would end the war. Nor has it precluded a return of violence at some point. The Petraeus strategy has not solved the fundamental reality that has always been the shadow over Iraq: Iran. But that was beyond Petraeus' task and, for now, beyond American capabilities". He, therefore, recommended that the Obama administration should still 'find a way' to keep a 'relatively small tailored force' of thirty thousand to fifty thousand troops in Iraq 'for many years to come'.
Why, one might well ask, must U.S. troops stay in Iraq, given our abysmal record there? Well, say these experts, they are the only force all Iraqis now accept, however grudgingly. They are, according to Friedman, the peacekeepers...holding back violence...Iraq's security blanket and the broker of political deals...we enforce the rules. According to him, they are the only 'honest brokers' around.
Today, Iraq is admittedly a mess. On Friedman's watch, the country crashed and burned. No one claims that Americans have put it back together. Multibillions of dollars in reconstruction funds later, the United States has been incapable of delivering the simplest things like reliable electricity or potable water to significant parts of the country. Now, the future sits empty and threatening before us. So much time in which so many things could happen, and all of them are horrifying, all calling out for U.S. to remain in Iraq because they just can't be trusted, they just don't deliver.