No Way Out?

Christopher Hayes

This piece by the indespensable Fred Kaplan over at Slate is a tough but absolutely necessary read. Kaplan says the prospects in Iraq do not look good: This is a terribly grim thing to say, but there might be no solution to the problem of Iraq. There might be nothing we can do to build a path to a stable, secure, let alone democratic regime. And there's no way we can just pull out without plunging the country, the region, and possibly beyond into still deeper disaster. Much as the Bush administration hoped otherwise, the fighting didn't stop—or so much as turn a corner—after sovereignty passed from the Coalition Provisional Authority to the new government of Iraq. Prime Minister Iyad Allawi made a fine speech on the occasion about dealing with the insurgency, especially the need to isolate the foreign jihadists from the homegrown rebels who simply don't like being occupied. But the distinction has turned out to be muddy, and it will remain so until Allawi demonstrates he deserves their loyalty—that is, until he proves that he's independent from his American benefactors and competent at restoring basic services. Meanwhile, the U.S. military—the only force in Iraq remotely capable of keeping the country from falling apart—finds itself in a maddening situation where tactical victories yield strategic setbacks. The Marines could readily defeat the insurgents in Najaf, but only at the great risk of inflaming Shiites—and sparking still larger insurgencies—elsewhere. In the Sadr City section of Baghdad, as U.S. commanders acknowledge, practically every resident is an insurgent. People keep complaining that Kerry doesn't have a "plan" for Iraq, other than to "get our allies involved." It's hard to blame him. It's really unclear to me what the hell the best course of action to pursue would be. And as much as the chattering class says that a withdrawal would be unresponsible, it's not clear to me that US troops aren't doing more harm than good. Their continued presence is unquestionably a constant provocation to jihadists, sectarians and nationalists. They say that if we pull out the country it will be plunged into civil war, but what exactly is Iraq headed towards now?

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Christopher Hayes is the host of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes. He is an editor at large at the Nation and a former senior editor of In These Times.
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