IraqTheVote.org

My father has a lot of ideas. Some of them are pretty good. Others get me into a lot of trouble.

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.


Eugene

From the start of Obama's campaign, he stated that we went into Iraq for bad reasons and in a mad rush with little thought, and that we should carefully get out...with thought. While the general benchmarks have varied slightly among the Democrats, the premise that we will not remain an occupying power, in Iraq because of bogus reasoning and intelligence, sets Obama apart from the Republicans' thinking.

Adam

There is a discussion that revolves around choosing dinner. If 3 wolves and a sheep all vote on dinner the sheep will lose. Great if you are a wolf, not so good if you are not.

Still, holding a vote for genocide seems something like an american would come up with.

Jon

The Iraq war should end because of the cost of the war, 20% of the federal budget in FY 2007. That number is only going up. In 5 years the savings can run the Federal Government for a year.

I also completely agree that a congressperson who is familiar with writing proposals should draft and start on a vote of a way to leave the Iraq. I also think that whoever wins the democratic primary will have to draft such legislation.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2008/pdf/08msr.pdf

Kinglink

I have to agree that it should be more the Iraq's decision but Marco hits the problem on the head. In addition elections aren't immune to tampering ("if you go to the polls and vote to keep the forces here we'll kill you.") But I agree that we should understand the Iraqi's desires. The simple fact is at this point we're their for them.

The fact American's want us home sadly isn't as important. If American's wanted us to stop fighting in either of the world wars, should we have just packed up and gone home, or was it the good for the world/country over our own countries inconvenience? I'm not saying this is the same thing, I'm just pointing out that once we start a war, we need to commit to it until the job we planned is finished.

I however would like to see the basis of the 70 percent.

And I'd like to thank the writers for continuing to keep this a nearly apolitical blog (at least in the posts)

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mike

we stay until victory! or 100 years. or 25 years or more. iraqi oil pays for it all. i love the fact we never seem to stop throwing good money after bad. forget sunk costs?

?

There isn't one person from Iraq who has signed it...
yeah lets just turn tail and run, when did we get a bunch of pansies in the US... doing so would disgrace every sodier who has died for the cause of freedom...

I'm no happier that we're there than the next guy, but it needs to be seen through. the world must know that terrorism and oppression will not be tolerated.

Omair

If 70 percent voted that they wanted us out, that would be a compelling reason to leave, unless our reason for being there had nothing to do with the Iraqis' wanting us there.

Let's be honest; the U.S. is in Iraq because the powers that be feel we either have something to gain by staying, or something to lose by leaving. If anyone thinks altruism exists in the foreign policy arena, they are mistaken.

Joe

There is nothing new or shocking that neither the population of Iraq nor the US peoples want or wanted to pursue the war crimes initiated in our military action and occupation in Iran. The argument that we should leave rests on the logical supposition that this administration cares at all about public opinion here or in Iraq. Their stances, policies and words make it abundantly clear that there is no interest in what people want and that the vested interests and plans of the rulers and what govern and will continue to govern our policies in Iraq and the middle east. This ignores domestic policies, but that is another discussion.

SnappyCrunch

I think Americans' opinions should be listened to, but they shouldn't count for much. For better or worse, we Americans elected a president who decided that America would invade Iraq. Now that we're there, it would be as irresponsible to leave the country in shambles as it was to invade in the first place. If the Iraqis show a popular vote that they'd rather have a sociopolitical nightmare rather than American rule, then we can oblige them. If they want us to stay, however, I think America should finish the job.

Quintus

The Washington Post editorial board had this to say on Sunday about whether we can win in Iraq:

"If the positive trends [as in May] continue, proponents of withdrawing most U.S. troops, such as Mr. Obama, might be able to responsibly carry out further pullouts next year. Still, the likely Democratic nominee needs a plan for Iraq based on sustaining an improving situation, rather than abandoning a failed enterprise. That will mean tying withdrawals to the evolution of the Iraqi army and government, rather than an arbitrary timetable; Iraq's 2009 elections will be crucial. It also should mean providing enough troops and air power to continue backing up Iraqi army operations such as those in Basra and Sadr City. When Mr. Obama floated his strategy for Iraq last year, the United States appeared doomed to defeat. Now he needs a plan for success."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/31/AR2008053101927.html

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Matt

Whether or not the Iraqis want us there certainly matters on some level, but it is arguably in our own long-term best interest as well. If we leave Iraq and it becomes a failed state, which could be a safe haven for terrorist groups a la Afghanistan 1990's-2001, it would seriously compromise our own security. Although I don't personally subscribe to this argument, since I think our presence alone creates more terrorists than leaving ever could, I think it is the true rationale behind our continued presence (rather than concern for what the Iraqis want). When national security concerns are on the table, Iraqi public opinion will definitely continue to take a back seat which is why I seriously doubt this petition is going anywhere.

Marco

So...what If 55% vote yes to the withdrawal and 45% say "NO! STAY! The other 55% are going to kill us"? Does that mean we can blame the ensuing mayhem to the Iraqis? Even if it's...our fault? Great!

Tobin

@BT

Maybe I'm not picking up on some sarcasm, but if the citizens of some other country were funding a war here in America that is comparable to the war in Iraq, would their opinion matter more than ours?

SammyC

I'm sorry to rain on everyone's parade, but I am going to echo what Omair (#8) wrote: Democracy and altruism have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH FOREIGN POLICY!

We are not in Iraq for any reason other than this: Our elected leaders decided it was in our best interests. And guess what--Iraq's "elected" leaders want us to stay, so we are going to stay. Rather than talking about a plebiscite in Iraq, which will absolutely never happen, lets talk about how we can encourage the growth of a domestic anti-war coalition. Or even better, lets talk about how we can encourage a stable political culture in Iraq that will lead to a mainstream rejection of all types of political violence, be it perpetrated by America, Al Qaeda, or domestic militias.

BT

I think Americans' opinion on staying or leaving for whatever reason should hold as much, if not greater weight as that of the Iraqis. Afterall, it is Americans who are financing the war. I would expect that 60%+ of Americans want to leave Iraq.

Jon Fancher

This is the stupidest idea I have ever read. The simple fact is that the vote has already taken place. We in America did so when we elected the people who sent the troops to Iraq (Not just the president most of you despise, it includes the congress, both republicans and democrats) and also the vote happened when the Iraqi people elected their government, who wants the Americans to stay, because we are defeating their enemies, training their troops, paying record prices for their oil, and financing the war. The media just gives voices to the people who say what they want them say, it is not representative of the people as a whole. If the Iraqi people want Americans out of the country, they can elect somebody in 2009 that promises to do so.

DJH

A plebiscite in Iraq is certainly appropriate, but whatever the results are, will necessarily be skewed by the context ... i.e. at the moment, the US military presence. That is, a majority of Iraqis may perceive, now, that the US should leave, but should we actually do that, the situation will -- by definition -- change greatly.

Given that Iraq has, so far, proven unpredictable, means that no one can be sure what a post-US-occupation Iraq would be like, not even Iraqis. Other considerations must be given some weight, and contingencies planned for (e.g. what if violence escalates again, would the US return in some way, and if so, how?).

There are no simple answers to the question of Iraq ... not even a plebiscite, which is about as simple an answer as one could offer.

frankenduf

the fact that it's utterly illegal for our troops to be there is another compelling argument for us to leave- sorry, but I gotta keep it real- the only reason our troops are there is the oil- so, I predict our troops will stay, just as we have kept troops in Saudi Arabia indefinitely- the irony here, of course, is that our refusal to pull our military bases out of SA is precisely what spawned Bin Laden's Al Qaida and bombing attacks in Lebanon- so the longer our troops remain in Iraq, the more militant will be the resentment against the US (read almost everywhere as 'terrorism')

RG

Since we've recognized the current government in Iraq, wouldn't it be improper for us to go past that government directly to the citizens to ask how they want to proceed?

Neil

@BT

I think you're wrong about that. Americans made the mess, so, if they're wanted, it's up to us to clean it up. The American public gave up the right to make that decision when we collectively agreed to the invasion.