I thought this article interestingly points to some very thought-provoking questions about continuing U.S. involvement in Iraq.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Malaki drew comparisons between the present turmoil between armed ethnic and religious militias in Iraq, the predictive future of that country, and those that led to Somalia’s current situation as an anarchic society without a nationally recognized central government. This, I think, strikes at the heart of confused and sometimes cross-pollinating justifications for the American occupation.

Case in point: the Bush administration has alternately called the invasion and subsequent occupation a search to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, a fight to prevent de facto control of Iraq by the terrorist network al-Qaeda, and an all-important theatre in the almost-evangelical pursuit of democracy (self-determination by gunpoint, I suppose). His would-be successor and ideological bedmate, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (AZ-R), recently went further by painting the predictive consequences of a sudden withdrawal of U.S. forces in terms of "genocide" and "ethnic cleansing," undercutting the mission to spread to democracy but underscoring this continuing realist-turned-idealist approach to foreign policy.

Which leaves a preponderance of questions in the wake of an extremely confused objective in Iraq: Is a continuing military occupation for the United States a moral obligation or a matter of national self-interest? Would leaving Iraq, a country in conflict, simultaneously and recklessly abandon the Iraqi people to acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing by diverse factions?

It calls into light the contrast between foreign policy objectives behind President Clinton’s short-lived 1993 venture into Somalia and his administration’s subsequent decision to remain quiet about the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

Another predictive model finds use here: what U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker has described as "Lebanonization," or the usurpation of one state’s sovereigny to another’s intervention. The term denotes Syria’s de facto control of internal Lebanese politics through military presence and sponsorship of various political parties, and has been used to describe a post-U.S. occupation role for countries like Syria and, more importantly, Iran, which continues to ship Iranian-made arms to Iraq and allegedly trains and funds Shi’ite militias.

I draw on this because it eerily reflects the conditions on which different factions in Somalia relied to initiate clan-based civil war and oust that country’s dictator, Mohamed Siad Barre, between 1986 and 1992. Militias and clans then existing received outside funding from Ethiopia, which enabled them to fight pro-Barre parties, internal factions, and subsequently amongst themselves for control of Somalia, ultimately paving the way for that country to become a failed state circa 2008.

Another potential consequence of U.S. withdrawal is hereby illustrated: Does leaving also mean opening an unstable Iraq to outside control and subjugation by local powers interested in arrogating sovereignty of that country to themselves?

By no means should we narrow opinions to a predictive outcome for Iraq. I think these questions should more carefully delineate our responsibility and subsequent concerns about long-term involvement in Iraq. Otherwise U.S. citizens and their elected leaders lend themselves to a stated hypocrisy, with sides on one hand clamoring for more attention and intervention in the ongoing genocide in Darfur, and others speaking truth to power about strategic failures in Iraq and the need to withdraw, even precipitously, in the name of U.S. national interest.

These things in mind — the threat of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and outside state control — is the Iraqi occupation an obligation to keep for Iraqis, preventing their state’s potential collapse and transformation into another Somalia, or an undertaking irresponsibly taken and just as easily ended?

I suppose we’ll see our foreign policy become clearer in 2009.

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