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Cynthia P. Schneider

Cynthia P. Schneider

Posted: August 31, 2010 01:53 PM

No One Cares About Our Deadline

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"We will meet our deadline for withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq." The fixation with meeting our own deadline, necessitated by domestic politics, reveals a particularly -- even for America --- myopic view of the world.

Here is the bad news. No one cares about our deadline. The world -- and particularly the Muslim majority world -- is looking for results. What does that mean? People I asked in various Muslim majority countries in the Middle East and the Gulf replied that it means a stable, safe Iraq, with a viable government, where people feel safe to pursue their livelihoods, go to school, get married -- in short, lead their lives.

No one I spoke to could care less about whether or not the U.S. Meets its deadline for withdrawal. But, then again, no one I spoke to is voting in the mid-term election. This is not a question of whether or not life under Saddam was "better" or "worse". The problem is that we invaded -- we broke it, we bought it. (While in the United States, we tend to refer to the Iraq War, elsewhere it is called the Iraq invasion.) Our self-imposed "deadline" is irrelevant in this scenario. It is as if a student who flunked all his courses, but arrived at school on time every day demanded a diploma.

President Obama certainly did not create this dilemma. But world opinion may not grant him the luxury of exiting it. It is doubtful that anyone can predict how long it would take, and how many troops or troops of whatever description would be required to deliver a stable, safe Iraq. But what kind of country are we that we invade another sovereign nation, and then leave it in chaos because our "deadline" has arrived?

President Obama may be able to finesse this situation with clever definitions of combat troops and other types of personnel. Indeed the argument could be made that we needed more engineers, teachers, doctors, and nurses all along. Maybe if the Iraqi people had electricity, running water, schools, and hospitals, there would be less strife anyway.

But, the United States cannot have it both ways. A country that meets its own deadline, while leaving chaos in its wake cannot expect to command undiminished respect on the world stage.