Increasing polarization between those who want to bring the ground troops from Iraq either immediately or say they want a time-table for withdrawal and those who want to stay the course and say a time-table tells the insurgents that they are winning alienates the American people who have conflicting feelings about the war. This polarization is exploited by candidates for President who play to their respective bases. Political posturing makes compromise difficult.
It is now indisputable that Saddam Hussein, his sons and his Baath party administration used rape, torture and murder to tyrannize the Iraqi people. Saddam behaved as if he still possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction after using nerve agents against the Iranians and the Kurds. After the first Gulf War, the U.S. encouraged the Shiites to rise up against Saddam and he put down this rebellion brutally. It was for this crime that he was hanged.
Hailed as liberators when we deposed Saddam, our attempt to be an occupying army has not gone well. Some of our children, parents and spouses have come home in boxes. Others have been severely wounded to come home to Walter Reed and other Veterans Administration hospitals that have poorly served them.
In the 24-hour news cycle, we have become so sensitive to immediate gratification. We think American losses as staggering but they pale in comparison to losses in World War II, the Korean conflict and the Vietnam War. Iraqi civilians are killed in droves by what has been called a sectarian civil war but there are so many factions, it is more properly understood as civil strife. If we pull out of Iraq, this killing will intensify as rival militia death squads round up the usual suspects.
Only former Wisconsin Governor and presidential candidate Tommy Thompson has proposed a reasonable Iraq policy. First, the people of Iraq need to vote on a referendum if the U.S. military should stay or go. If they no longer want us, we should go. Second, Iraq’s 14 districts should elect governments so Iraqis will gravitate to Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish areas. Third, Iraq’s oil revenue should be divided between the federal government, provisional governments and the Iraqi people, like in Alaska.
In the early going, Thompson has self-destructed in remarks about gays and Jews. He will not be considered a running mate by a Republican nominee because he has yet to hit double-digits anywhere outside Wisconsin. It is more likely that Thompson will remain in the more lucrative private sector and asked to lead international and domestic missions.
The Iraqi parliament is already wrestling with the future of oil revenue distribution because Iraq’s current oil wells are in Shiite and Kurdish areas and pipelines are frequent insurgent targets. Polarization is even more dramatic in Baghdad than in Washington and compromise is just as elusive.