The Elections in the UK, Italy and soon in the US
UK: Last week’s regional elections has escalated a civil war in Blair’s Labour Party, with dissenters demanding him to step down. Telegraph reports: “Tony Blair abandoned his election promise to serve a full third term last night, indicating that he could stand down next summer.”
Italy: Prime Silvio Minsiter Berlusconi’s lost in April’s elections has paved the way for Romano Prodi to take lead as the succeeding Prime Minister. Prodi has discussed pulling out the 2,700 Italian troops (3rd largest contingent in Iraq). The latest targeting against Italian troops in Iraq will expedite such moves; indeed, CounterTerrorBlog discusses that Al-Qaida hopes to bully Italy to withdraawing, doing what it did against Spain with.
US: Mid-term elections are coming around very soon for the US, leaving many Republican nervous. With President Bush hitting every lower and lower approval ratings and increased Republican-infighting, we should expect Democrats to make gains against the Republicans. If they will recapture Congress is not known, but things can only get worse for the Republicans – and so the support for the Iraq War will suffer.
The fourth largest contingent of forces, from South Korea, are already beginning their partial pullout, paring down “1,000 of its 3,200 soldiers remaining in the country” by the end of this year. Italy, with the coming establishing of Prodi’s government, will most likely pull out its forces out of Iraq perhaps by the end of the year. The UK, American’s venerable ally, could be next when Prime Minister Tony Blair steps down. A very scary situation for supporters of the Iraq War.
With the “Coalition of the Willing” already mocked for its lack of many major powers, the list of nations (listed by the Coalition’s web site) will look even thinner.
Shakeup in the CIA, raising oil prices and the Iran Crisis are putting President Bush in an ever weaker position in the mainstream press and the masses (as the polls show). As more announcements on withdrawals will be announced, support of the war will fall into an ever deeper lull.
Still, the StrategyPage still looks pretty optimistic over the conditions in Iraq:
“[Violence] keeps the foreign journalists happy, but the local reporters are more concerned with the street crime and corrupt government officials…Most of the patrols and raids are now conducted by Iraqi troops, who are well aware of the fact that they are still fighting Saddam.”
But the overall feeling Americans and the world will have is “if the US is wining the war in Iraq, why is everyone pulling out? Abandoning the US?” The counterpoint that the more successful Iraqi government troops continue to be the more the Coalition Forces can step down will sound too convenient of an answer.
While the US has been and needs to slowly withdrawing some troops from Iraq as Iraqi Government forces standup, US withdrawal under media and public calls for an immediate pullout may only embolden and encourage the insurgents and US enemies.
While not perfect analogies, British troops remained in Malaysia for over 10 years to quell the Communist rebellion and similar numbers of years were spent by US forces in the 1899–1913 Philippine Insurrection (though with a high cost of civilian life). A better analogy is that Japan did not receive its sovereignty from the Allies until 1952.
We are only in Year 3 of the Post-Saddam Iraq Era. While the world and even the US public will increase pressure on withdrawing US forces, we need to remember that the Iraq Project is a long term project – longer than a single election cycle – and will have a profound effect on the Middle East, the World and most importantly the Iraqi People for generations to come. It is sad irony that elections in the democracies of the UK, Italy et al may imperil democracy in Iraq.
For a view supporting “Cut and Run” from Iraq, see Lt. Gen. William E. Odom’s article “ Cut and Run? You Bet” in Foreign Policy, May/June 2006.