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: 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 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.

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  1. BT says:

    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.

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  2. Tobin says:


    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?

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  3. Marco says:

    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!

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  4. Matt says:

    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.

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  5. Quintus says:

    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.”

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  6. SnappyCrunch says:

    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.

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  7. ? says:

    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.

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  8. Omair says:

    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.

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