Precedents, Variables, and Options in Planning a U.S. Military Disengagement Strategy from Iraq

  • October 01, 2005
  • Dr Conrad C Crane, Dr W Andrew Terrill

The questions of how to empower the Iraqis most effectively and then progressively withdraw non-Iraqi forces from that country is one of the most important policy problems currently facing the United States. The authors seek to present the U.S. situation in Iraq in all of its complexity and ambiguity, with policy recommendations for how that withdrawal strategy might be most effectively implemented. They consider previous instances of U.S. military occupation of foreign countries and the difficulty of maintaining domestic support for such operations. The authors view the empowerment of a viable Iraqi central government and a security force to defend its authority as vital to the future of that country, but also suggest that there are severe constraints on the potential for the United States to sustain its military presence in that country at the current level. They conclude that the United States must be prepared to withdraw from Iraq under non-optimal conditions and that the chief U.S. goals should be to devise an exit strategy for Iraq that focuses on bolstering Iraqi government legitimacy even if this does not involve creating a Western style democracy. The authors strongly reject the idea withdrawing from Iraq by the use of a formal timetable, and call for the U.S. to continue its policy of renouncing permanent Iraqi bases.