Generational Dynamics: Forecasting America's Destiny Generational
Dynamics
 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's

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Can we withdraw from Iraq in 2005?

Suddenly the Washington buzz is that whoever wins - Bush or Kerry - will begin to withdraw American troops from Iraq. We look at two historical examples to predict scenarios. (16-Oct-2004)
Summary False hopes and expectations abound, both in America and overseas, that America will withdraw from Iraq in 2005. Two historical comparisons -- to American's withdrawal from Vietnam, and Britain's 1948 withdrawal from Iraq -- show that there won't be a massive civil war, but Iraq will almost certainly join with the Palestinians in any war against Israel. However, not withdrawing is not much more appealing.

Although both George Bush and John Kerry are saying that they won't "cut and run" from Iraq, there's still a feeling that a President John Kerry would pull the troops from Iraq as soon as possible in 2005, and that even George Bush could be pressured to do the same. Either way, the feeling is that this would take place after the January, 2005, Iraqi national elections.

The rumors of an early withdrawal from Iraq were bolstered by syndicated columnist Robert Novak, in his September 20 column, which said that the Bush administration is planning a quick exit from Iraq next year.

Contents - This page
The view from overseas
America's withdrawal from Vietnam
England's 1948 withdrawal from Iraq
What happens if we stay in Iraq?
Withdraw in 2005?

Novak claims that Bush administration sources have told him confidentially that President Bush plans to begin withdrawing from Iraq after the January elections in Iraq. He explained this view further on Meet the Press by saying that the Bush administration has concluded that the American public cannot stand the continued terrorist beheadings and armed forces casualties.

Novak says that his contacts in the John Kerry election team have reached the same conclusion, if Kerry wins the election. The result, according to Novak, is that American troops will withdraw from Iraq next year no matter who wins.

According to Novak,

The view from overseas

We're hearing the same message overseas as well. A pundit writing in Japan Today expressed the concept as follows:

This argument was written on October 4, but it was undercut on October 9 when Australian Prime Minister John Howard won his reelection battle decisively, on a platform that strongly supports continued involvement in Iraq. On the other hand, several countries, led by Spain, withdrew their troops and contractors this year. And yesterday (Friday), Poland said it plans to reduce its Iraq troops next year.

Our intuition tells us that withdrawing from Iraq would be a geopolitical disaster: It would be seminal victory for al Qaeda of such significance that it would boost Islamic terrorism worldwide; it would create a power vacuum in Iraq that would be filled by invading troops from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey; and it would redouble the Palestians' determination to expel Israel by similar acts of terrorism.

Both the Bush and Kerry camps are denying any plans to withdraw. During the debates, we can expect both candidates to refuse to "cut and run."

But since the politics of this situation could change at any time, let's examine the consequences of withdrawing from Iraq by looking at some historical withdrawals in the past.

America's withdrawal from Vietnam

The most obvious example that many journalists, pundits, and high-priced analysts will refer to is the American withdrawal from Vietnam in the early 1970s, after which the entire region collapsed into a major regional war. The North Vietnamese government (our enemy) overran South Vietnam (our ally) in the conclusion of an genocidal civil war. This was followed by a massive genocidal war next door in Cambodia in the mid to late 1970s, slaughtering some 8 million people.

So what does this tell us about the situation in Iraq? Does it mean that if we withdraw from Iraq, then there'll be a genocidal civil war in Iraq, followed by a genocidal war next door somewhere, resulting in millions of deaths?


Prior to the Vietnam war, the last crisis war was in the 1880s and 1890s in French Indochina
Prior to the Vietnam war, the last crisis war was in the 1880s and 1890s in French Indochina

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, there are some significant differences between Iraq today and 1970s Vietnam.

First, the reason that Vietnam and Cambodia exploded into massive genocidal war when we left in the 1970s was because the entire region was in a "generational crisis" period, since the previous crisis war was in the 1880s and 1890s. The adjoining map shows that the region contains two conflicting civilizations, the Buddhist civilization (originally from India) and the Sinic civilization (originally from China).

By the 1970s, 80 years after the last crisis war, a genocidal war between these two civilizations was inevitable, with or without the American presence and withdrawal.

So the Vietnam situation doesn't really apply to Iraq. As we've said repeatedly on this web site, Iraq is in a "generational awakening" period, just one generation past the genocidal Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s.

In fact, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey have all had crisis wars within the last two decades, and so a massive "war of the people" in any of those countries is not possible, even if America withdraws. Of course, less violent "political wars" could still be initiated by these countries, and probably would be.

But a Vietnam-like scenario resulting in millions of deaths isn't a likely outcome to an American withdrawal from Iraq.

England's 1948 withdrawal from Iraq


Mideast, showing Israel/Palestine, Muslim countries, and Orthodox Christian countries
Mideast, showing Israel/Palestine, Muslim countries, and Orthodox Christian countries

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, England's 1948 withdrawal from Iraq is more significant.

Iraq was governed by Britain throughout the 1920s, until 1930, when the Anglo-Iraqi treaty gave Iraq full independence, but left Britain with control of two air bases in Iraq. The massive public anti-British riots and demonstrations that followed World War II forced Britain to withdraw completely.

The people of the oldest generation in Iraq today certainly remember the 1948 withdrawal, and it's part of the dynamic going on in Iraq today. In fact, the 1948 withdrawal occurred during another Iraqi generational awakening period, and so it's highly comparable to what's happening today.

If we take a look at what happened with Britain's 1948 withdrawal from Iraq, we see the following:

So what does this tell us about what will happen to Iraq if the Americans withdraw?

Well first, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that political instability in Iraq will continue. There's a good chance that whatever Iraqi government is elected in January, 2005, will collapse, as insurgency terrorism continues.

Second, there's still a struggle between Palestinians and Israelis, and Iraqis overwhelmingly support the Palestinians. Thus, as the Palestine region moves toward a larger war, the resources of Iraq will be used to support Palestinians against Israel, and Iraq will probably declare war against Israel at that time. Finally we can expect any remaining Christians and Jews in Iraq to be forced to migrate.

Third, neighboring countries will move to fill the power vacuum in Iraq left by the American withdrawal. Turkey will move forces in to bring the Kurdish regions under control, Iran will support the Shi'ite Muslims, and Syria will try to join with the Sunni Muslims.

From the point of view of American politics, the fact that Iraq would become an immediate enemy of Israel is enough to guarantee that America will not voluntarily withdraw from Iraq, despite what Robert Novak and other pundits think or hope.

What happens if we stay in Iraq?

So, what will happen to Iraq if the Americans don't withdraw?

First, the popular opposition to American occupation will continue to increase, and it will be largely fueled by a generational dispute, with younger leaders attempting to eject the Americans, and older leaders trying to preserve the status quo in order to avoid war.

Second, insurgency terrorism will continue to increase, fueled by American support of Israel.

The world today is moving toward a "clash of civilizations" world war, centered in the Mideast.

For better or worse, America will be fighting this war from the beginning, with its pre-positioned forces in Iraq. From Iraq, American forces can move to the Palestine region or the Cacusus region, and even to the Indian-Pakistan border in some scenarios.

However, America's forces are stretched very thin right now, and any new crisis will require increasing the size of the forces. Eventually, the draft will be reinstituted.

Withdraw in 2005?

Let's now return to the original subject: What do we make of all this talk that America is going to withdraw from Iraq in 2005?

This is part of a large fabric of false expectations that many people in America and around the world are holding on to. There's a na´ve feeling in a lot of people that we can return to the good 'ol days of the 90s if we just do a couple of things like withdraw from Iraq.

Contents - This page
The view from overseas
America's withdrawal from Vietnam
England's 1948 withdrawal from Iraq
What happens if we stay in Iraq?
Withdraw in 2005?

Unfortunately, the world has changed since the 90s, and the biggest changes are generational: The people in the generation that grew up during World War II were the world's leaders ten years ago, and today that generation is gone, replaced by a new generation of leaders with no personal memory of World War II. Examining millennia of history tells us that this can mean only one thing: All the compromises that ended World War II are being rejected by a new generation of leaders, and the battles of World War II are going to be refought in a new world war, with near 100% certainty.

Given that certainty, will the invasion of Iraq turn out to have been a good idea or a bad idea? I don't believe that we'll be able to answer that question for at least ten years, irrespective of the nonsense we hear from all sides in the election battles.


Copyright © 2002-2016 by John J. Xenakis.