Monday, October 24, 2005

Do the Iraqis really want us out?

The moral case for our troops invading, staying, or leaving Iraq depends in large part on what the Iraqi people want to have happen. I wouldn't say it depends exclusively on that wish, because there is the issue of protecting individual and minority rights against the tyranny of the majority, but it's the determining factor absent some overwhelming reason to act otherwise.

I didn't make up my mind in March 2003 whether to support the invasion (a mistake on my part) because I couldn't decide if I could figure out what the Iraqis wanted. Polls of Iraqis after the invasion gave some mixed and incoherent results.

The latest poll isn't mixed; it basically says we should leave. The conservative British newspaper, The Telegraph, has these figures:

• Forty-five per cent of Iraqis believe attacks against British and American troops are justified - rising to 65 per cent in the British-controlled Maysan province;

• 82 per cent are "strongly opposed" to the presence of coalition troops;

• less than one per cent of the population believes coalition forces are responsible for any improvement in security;

• 67 per cent of Iraqis feel less secure because of the occupation;

• 43 per cent of Iraqis believe conditions for peace and stability have worsened;

• 72 per cent do not have confidence in the multi-national forces.

So I don't know what to do with these figures. I'd prefer to see the answer to a conditional question, like "should the Americans and British withdraw all their troops over the next three months, even if few or no troops from Muslim/Arab countries come to replace them in providing security?" I'd like to see the poll repeated, and I'd like to see the figures broken down by ethnicity.

My best guess is that a complete pullout in a short period would be a disaster. It's getting harder for me to say that America and Britain have the right to decide that, though, when we bear only a tiny part of the consequences.

The other factor is to what extent Iraq's elected representatives truly act with legitimacy, because they don't seem to want us to leave: "Iraq's President Jalal Talabani pleaded last night for British troops to stay. 'There would be chaos and perhaps civil war,' he said."

Sorry, this is not a clear post, seeing as I don't know what to think of this mess. Thanks a lot, Bush. At least I'm going to enjoy this week more than your administration will.

UPDATE: added a reference to the invasion being a mistake.

key: Iraq

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