Sistani to the rescue?

Are we about to get an invitation to leave Iraq?

Juan Cole thinks that the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most respected religious figure in Shi’a Iraq, may be about out of patience with the American occupation. Surely Cole is right that if al-Sistani (and presumably al-Maliki) say “Go,” we have to be gone. For those of us who think that being tied down in a no-win situation in Iraq is about the worst thing that ever happened to American military and diplomatic power, being invited to leave Iraq &#8212 and thereby escaping any moral onus for whatever carnage follows our departure &#8212 seems like an invitation to awaken from a nightmare.

I just hope the Pentagon has contingency plans for a quick exit: not a battalion a month, taking all our equipment with us, but a “get the troops out PDQ” that takes what’s essential, gives the Iraqis what we want them to have, and trashes the rest. If we have to exit quickly, and if we’re not ready to, we could easily lose as many lives getting out as we have to date.

Of course, if Cole is right, the decision to try to take out the Mahdi Army in Sadr City has to count as one of the dumbest moves ever. What else is new?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: