Via Kevin Drum, new polling from the Project on International Policy Attitudes indicates that Iraqis would overwhelmingly like to see the United States leave Iraq on a definite schedule within a reasonably short time frame. The full report is here. “Seven out of ten Iraqis overall—including both the Shia majority (74%) and the Sunni minority (91%)—say they want the United States to leave within a year.” In Baghdad, the center of our current military efforts and the place where fears of an upsurge in violence were the US to leave are most realistic (Baghdad residents share this concern), support for departure is, if anything, somewhat stronger with 80 percent of the Baghdad Shia saying they’d like to see us leave.
As Kevin notes, one can debate whether this is really the correct policy judgment on the part of Iraqis. Perhaps in some sense things would be better if they simply welcomed their foreign overlords.
That said, as he also points out, it really doesn’t matter. Whatever it might be possible for US forces to achieve in principle, we’re not going to be able to do anything useful in the face of this kind of overwhelming opposition to our very presence. People won’t cooperate with our troops meaningfully or be interested in American views on what kind of steps the Iraqi government should or should not be taking. Most of all, you certainly can’t build a democracy with an unpopular occupying army staying in a foreign country in the face of hostile public attitudes. Insofar as the Iraqi government does cooperate with our forces and does take our suggestions, it’s only going to find itself discredited by association with us. The situation is untenable, and we need to leave. What’s more, we need to start planning to leave as soon as possible so we can figure out a plan that’s orderly and reasonably safe, rather than finding ourselves needing to do it in a panic 30 months from now.