With changes in American troop movements underway in Iraq in preparation for large-scale reductions in forces expected following the January elections there, attention must be focused on how America leave Iraq, assuming the importance our invasion did in 2003.
Nicolaus Mills, co-editor of Getting Out: Comparative Perspectives for Leaving Iraq, recently published by University of Pennsylvania Press, says that while there is much talk about just and unjust wars, governments rarely talk about “getting out” from an occupied country except with regard to protecting their troops.
“In the case of Iraq, we have a commitment to what we leave behind and how we do that,” says Mills. “Historically we have planned for victory but not for defeat.”
Mills and his co-editor, Michael Walzer from the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, believe their book, which reviews a series of historical cases from Britain in India to America in Korea and Japan, can serve to help guide the Obama administration as it extricates the U.S. from Iraq.
“We hope the book will be seen as putting our departure from Iraq in moral perspective,” says Mills, who also contributed a chapter in Getting Out on the run-up to the war in Iraq. “It is crucial that the U.S. understand and address the moral as well as political principles that must govern withdrawal if we are not to repeat the mistakes made by the British in India, the French in Algeria and Americans in Vietnam.” These principles include technical support for Iraq, safety for those who have worked to support the American occupation and measures to guard against “ethnic cleansing,” he says.
Mills states that with respect to Iraq the United States should concern itself with how many of its troops should be left behind and whether an international force can contribute to stabilizing Iraq. Exit histories from Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines and other nations, and how these histories can be applied in Iraq, comprise the book’s chapters. Literature faculty member Fred Smoler authored the chapter on Korea
Mills is the author of Better Self, Their Last Battle: The Fight for the National World War II Memorial, Like a Holy Crusade: Mississippi 1964, The Crowd in American Literature, and American and English Fiction in the Nineteenth Century; editor of Debating Affirmative Action, Arguing Immigration, Culture in an Age of Money, Busing USA, The New Journalism, and The New Killing Fields; contributor to The Boston Globe, The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Newsday, The Nation, Yale Review, National Law Journal, and The Guardian. He is an editorial board member, Dissent magazine and recipient of fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, American Council of Learned Societies, and the Rockefeller Foundation.
Co-author Michael Walzer, a leading political theorist from the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, is a philosopher of society, politics, and ethics. He has written on a wide range of topics, including just and unjust wars, nationalism, ethnicity, economic justice, criticism, radicalism, tolerance, and political obligation. He is editor-in-chief of the liberal magazine Dissent and a contributing editor to The New Republic.
Note: A panel discussion, including Fred Smoler, on the topic of getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan, held in conjunction with the publication of the book, will take place at The New School, 66 W. 12thStreet, Wollman Hall, 5th Floor on Thursday, September 17 at 7 p.m. sponsored by NYU's Cultural Reporting & Criticism Program and Dissent magazine.