Back in July of 2005, my dad had an idea I thought was interesting enough that I passed it along to the staff of Barack Obama. This is well before Obama was running for president — back when he was merely a junior senator.
My father’s idea (in his own words) was as follows:
As I listened to Congress talk about Iraq about a week ago, it struck me that everyone (Democrats and Republicans alike) was demanding that Bush propose a plan as to how/when we were going to get out of Iraq. But no one was putting forth their own plan. I think a congressman/ senator with a plan might get a lot of good publicity.
The plan I would suggest is that a plebiscite be held in Iraq to determine if the populace wants the American military to stay or leave. Some pre-determined percentage supporting our presence would be required for us to stay, otherwise we would leave.
The percentage would be influenced by how badly we wanted to stay, but I would think that something like 55 percent would be a reasonable number. The beauty of the plan is obvious. If they vote for us, it would show the U.S. and the rest of the world what a wonderful country America is; if they vote against us, we have the perfect exit strategy.
The Obama staffer who wrote me back was very gracious — although I’m not sure if the idea ever made it to Obama, or what he thought of it if it did make it. I wonder whether, if he had proposed this plan back in 2005, it would have helped or hurt his current presidential bid.
Anyway, I was excited to see that a few years later, some folks had the same idea as my father, but actually have managed to do something constructive about it. They came up with a great name: IraqTheVote.org. They’ve gotten 3,000 people to sign their petition so far. Strangely enough, 1,500 of these are professors, including Nobel Prize winning economist Kenneth Arrow.
One interesting difference between my father’s take on the problem and that of IraqTheVote.org is that my father thought that there was a pretty good chance that the Iraqis would vote to keep us, and I think this was not an unreasonable conjecture in 2005.
If indeed 70 percent of the Iraqis want us out (as iraqthevote claims), and those 70 percent are spread across a wide range of constituencies, it does seem like a pretty compelling argument for us to leave.