U.S. Troops Should Exit Iraq Rapidly

Cato study says no way to eliminate damage

February 14, 2007

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. military occupation of Iraq has already cost more than 3,000 American lives and $350 billion. In a new policy analysis, “Escaping the Trap: Why the United States Must Leave Iraq,” Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, argues for a rapid and comprehensive withdrawal from Iraq. “It is time to admit that the Iraq mission has failed and cut our losses. We need an exit strategy that is measured in months, not years,” says Carpenter.

“Withdrawal will not be without cost,” Carpenter concedes. “We can minimize that damage by refocusing our efforts on al Qaeda in Afghanistan and elsewhere, but there is no way to eliminate the damage. Whatever price we will pay for withdrawing from Iraq, however, must be measured against the probable cost in blood and treasure if we stay.”

Carpenter examines the arguments put forth by opponents of immediate withdrawal, including the Bush administration, the Iraq Study Group, and the American Enterprise Institute, and concludes that their reasoning is “ultimately deficient as a reason for keeping U.S. troops in Iraq.” The alternative prescriptions these and other groups offer -– gradual or partial withdrawal, escalation, and partitioning — are unrealistic, expensive, and insufficient to stem the violence in Iraq. “There is no reasonable prospect of success,” writes Carpenter.

“It is neither constructive nor desirable for the United States to engage in an open-ended, or even a prolonged, military occupation of Iraq,” explains Carpenter. “The notion that Iraq would become a stable, united, secular democracy and be the model for a new Middle East was always an illusion. We should not ask more Americans to die for that illusion.”

Policy Analysis #588