Saturday, June 25, 2005

"Replacing" the US with the UN in Iraq

My most trusted Iraq expert, Juan Cole, is a bitter opponent of the Bush Administration but has also opposed a near-term US withdrawal as a recipe for disaster. Lately though, he's been considering "replacing" the US with the UN in Iraq as something that could be feasible and beneficial.

I keep the word "replacing" in quotes because scenarios he discussed kept a significant US military presence in Iraq, so it's not a real withdrawal. The politically-infeasible component is having the US troops under UN control - not even a Democratic president would support that or be able to get it through Congress. I don't have a problem with it, I'm just pointing out facts. Elsewhere in his blog, Cole reprints various criticisms of the idea: that the UN is nearly as distrusted in Iraq as the US (it won't be greeted with flowers), that Iraqi racism will cause serious problems with Third World peacekeepers, and that many countries angry at the US will refuse to provide peacekeeping troops on a dangerous mission.

My opinion still favors something I thought Kerry should have said last summer - a split US/UN military command. Withdraw the US troops from Kurdish areas, Shiite areas, and the Syrian border, and let the UN handle those. Concentrate US troops in the Sunni provinces, and bring in additional troops. I disagree with the argument there aren't additional troops - there are additional troops doing worthwhile things in South Korea and Europe, but the Iraq work is more important - pull the troops out of these other areas.

If there is a UN force capable of handling the entire country, I'd favor a complete withdrawal. I don't think there is one.

(Can't resist adding this side-note: College Republicans very enthusiastic about the Iraq war, and not so enthusiastic about enlisting.)

keywords: politics, Iraq

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