I can’t speak for reasons anyone else might have for wanting US forces pulled out of Iraq immediately, but this is mine…
At the tail end of WW2, Germany’s second in command and head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, decided to save his own tail. He figured the war was lost, and while he was still afraid of Hitler, he thought he had two bargaining chips he could use with the major Western Allies. The first bargaining chip was the expectation, both in Germany and among some of the top officers in the West, that sooner or later there would be war with the Soviet Union. Considering that, as Churchill put it, the Red Army “tore the guts out of the Nazi war machine,” such a possibility was not to be taken lightly. The thought among many was that the West would need the Nazi war machine if it was to prevail against the Red Army. The second bargaining chip he had was the number of Jews that had survived until that point – in ghettoes and concentration camps.
There were several preliminary back channel negotiations between Himmler and the Western Allies in the last few weeks of the war, the best known through a Swedish diplomat, Folke Bernadotte. At this point, let me remind the reader – Himmler was head of the SS, which means he in effect had his own military (the Waffen-SS), and he ran the concentration camps. When Hitler found out about the negotiations, of course, he ordered Himmler’s arrest, no doubt to be followed by hanging from piano wire. Himmler fled, was captured by the Western Allies, and committed suicide.
Now, let’s assume things had gone slightly different. Let us say that Himmler had knocked off Hitler, and had managed to prevail over rivals like Goering. If the Western Powers had signed a separate peace with Germany – and turned a blind eye toward the continued operation of the concentration camps and the brutality of the SS (think Malmedy) – how would you feel looking back? How would the country – our country – be different today as a result?
Now, the situation in Iraq is not a precise parallel; history never offers precise parallels. And we have, at times, made our accommodations with the likes of Himmler (since I grew up in Latin America, I can’t help but think of Rios Montt), but in WW2 itself, we were allied with Stalin against, arguably, a greater evil.
But still, aligning ourselves with thugs is something that, if we do, we have to do with care, because we do it at the peril of our soul. Nietzsche tells us what happens when you look into the abyss for long enough; arming, training, financing, and allying yourself with the abyss is one way to look into it for a very, very long time.
And make no mistake, we are aligned with thugs. Those Sunni sheikhs that have turned against Al Qaeda – they were shooting at Americans not long ago, and would be today if they didn’t see us as the lesser of various other evils. Ditto the Shia death squads. And the government, such as it is, of Iraq, is also no prize.
All of which is to say… I don’t think we risk a situation where we are left with a series of sectarian cleansed enclaves populated exclusively by those who have been successful at performing the cleansing. The evidence shows we’re already some way toward that outcome, and it has been achieved, successfully and absolutely, in some areas. (That, incidentally, may well include Kurdistan. Its quiet, but only because the Kurdish cleansers got an earlier start – they had the entire 1990s to work unimpeded.) And its not because I think we risk a situation where we have aided and abetted; I think we’ve been aiding and abetting for a long time now.
No. Where I think we are in Iraq, right now, as a nation, is in the position of a gang members of a particularly vicious gang. A gang member who has been part of horrific crimes and violence which benefits the gang and nobody else. That gang member can’t fix the past, and he can’t change the other members of the gang. But he can, at least, get up and walk away.