President Obama announced on Friday that he is ordering the immediate draw down of the 142,000 troops in Iraq, officially ending the war on August 31, 2010. Antiwar activists are displeased that this plan will take three months longer than promised on the campaign trail and will leave behind a residual force of 50,000 troops.
Understandably, activists want the fast and easy breakup that we all wish we were mature enough to pull off. But once you get a little life under your belt you learn that its damn near impossible to leave any relationship quickly and cleanly. Breakups are always messy.
Stuff gets left behind: books, clothes, broken electronics, hearts and promises. The truth is we'll never be able to completely leave. World War II ended in 1945 and yet we still have bases in Germany, Japan and Italy. Clearly we just don't know how to let go. As the 90s R&B group Boys to Men so aptly crooned, "It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday."
Idealistically, even if we were completely out by tomorrow - DVDs and all - there's still Afghanistan. It's the military equivalent of going back to an old flame that you only kinda sort of broke up with; the unhealthy on-again, off-again relationship where someone's always thinking: "I wish I knew how to quit you."
Doesn't anyone appreciate the fact that there's any kind of plan at all? America's continued presence in Iraq has been contentious, summed up best by The Clash: "Should I stay or should I go? If I stay there will be trouble. If I go there will be double."
The minute we put boots under the bed - I mean, on the ground - the relationship got serious. You can't go back to holding hands. That means leaving is going to cost us in time and money. Anybody who's ever gone through a divorce can tell you that. Even with the best of intentions - we want to leave and they want us to go - it won't happen over night.
Could this be a learning opportunity? A teachable moment? Perhaps when it comes to war we could use a little abstinence education. Whipping out weapons comes with consequences. You can't just shoot and run. It's easier to pull out diplomats than troops.