THE BLOG
12/04/2007 09:54 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

British Show Bill Richardson to be Right on Iraq

Living in the UK these past several weeks, there is a feeling of 'home-field advantage' in seeing, perhaps darkly, into the future. While we in the United States rely on what passes for dueling experts (mostly, those who have been consistently wrong about all the other aspects of the Iraq War, but c'mon, what's 3800 dead, 25,000 wounded and $1.2Trillion among friends?), concerning the wisdom and consequences of taking certain actions, the British have provided us a real-life experiment, as they have actually withdrawn about 90% of their troops.

A few weeks ago British troops left Basra, the second largest city in Iraq, to take up residence at the airport. Hardly a model of comity despite their Shia commonality, Basra boasts 100 or so militia groups vying for control. It might be worth noting that that area contains about 80% of Iraq's oil reserves, whereas the other 20% are in the north, controlled by the Kurds. The remaining troops were left for training, and for some other ill-defined missions should they be needed.

There is a chance that Shia militias sympathetic to Iran may take over the region with its huge oil reserves. Yet, not a peep from the British public, not an intonation of concern from Bush who nonetheless allows our soldiers to continue to lose their lives and limbs for a result that no one seems able to articulate or envision.

Major Republican Presidential candidates are falling over one another to beat the drums for more and continued war, at least so long as none of Mitt Romney's 5 sons have to serve in it. All the major Democratic candidates, with one exception, have hedged their bets, talking about removing all "combat troops", but leaving other troops behind, and were unable to tell Russert in the debate that all US troops would be out of Iraq by 2013.

What happened when the British withdrew? Convulsive bloodletting on a scale that would make Rwanda appear like an isolated murder as our "experts" predicted---it was the one thing the Dems and Repubs agreed upon? Well, no. More like a dramatic ~90% reduction in violence. That, little Bushiphiles, beats the surge by a long shot.

Today, there was another interesting revelation in the British press. An 'all-party' defence parliamentary committee inquiry concluded that there is virtually no rationale for leaving the remaining troops, i.e., those that were left there for training and to fight the insurgency. None. Zero. Zilch. Zorch.

Bill Richardson is the only major candidate that answered that debate question definitively: 'remove all troops' , meaning zero US troops left by 2013, and indeed withdrawing them as rapidly as logistically and safely possible. He made it clear that he meant ALL US troops, the combat troops everyone talks about and the so-called non-combat troops that would number 50 or 60 or 75,000.

A quick perusal of Richardson's website shows he has been taking this position throughout the campaign. He came under blistering attack, even ridicule, and that position has cost him some votes, but he has stuck with it. Once-upon-a-time, that was called that leadership.

The British experience is about as close to a controlled experiment as there will ever be in foreign policy, and the evidence suggests that Richardson has been correct all along. Yes, the situation in the south is different from al-Anbar province, and yes, the situation in the south could deteriorate instantaneously, and the militias go after one another. But, isn't that the point: no matter how long we stay, when we leave there will be a snapshot in time of how it is working, and then the Iraqis will resolve their differences themselves.

Barack was the only major candidate in either party who was right early-on. Richardson is the only one who has it right now.