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Exit Strategy

I know that the country's turned to the right. But we'd still have the New Deal if voters were turning out at New Deal-type rates. (Between 1936 and 1968, voter turnout in presidential elections fell below 56 percent just once. Since 1968, it has never exceeded 56 percent.)
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Posted Monday, May 24, 2004, at 8:29 AM PT - It is clear we are at a crossroads in Iraq. Naysayers are claiming the situation there is chaotic and confusing. Nonsense. It is not confusing. It is quite simple.

Allow me to explain.

There are, at present, two major constituencies in Iraq: those who want to kill us, and those who do not. Success will require minimizing membership in the former group. Complications along this path may include the following:

  1. In the process of killing the ones who want to kill us, we sometimes kill some who are not trying to kill us. This has been observed to cause a sudden increase in the number who want to kill us, which means a longer stay for us, since we then must kill, not only the ones who originally wanted to kill us, but also the ones who just started wanting to kill us.

  2. In order to identify the ones who want to kill us, it is necessary, once we have caught someone who wants to kill us, to encourage him/her to help us identify others who want to kill us. Sometimes we mistake ones who don't want to kill us for ones who do, and catch them, and encourage them. Upon their release, there occurs a sudden increase in the number of those who want to kill us.

  3. Given the large number of us over there, it should come as no surprise that some of us are bad. Certain abuses have occurred. However, it is only fair to note that many more abuses were occurring before we arrived. Plus, if our abusers are abusing over there, they are not abusing over here. So really, it is a win/win: The Iraqis have fewer abuses than they were having, and we have fewer abuses than we would have had had our abusers stayed at home. Everyone is happy, except, it has been observed, those who were abused and those who hear of the abuse and suddenly join the group of those wanting to kill us.

Since it is clear that we cannot leave until they stop killing us, and equally clear that they will not stop killing us until we leave, I propose the following exit strategy:

  1. Kill all the ones who are trying to kill us, in such a way that none of those who presently do not want to kill us suddenly start wanting to kill us.

  2. At the moment of the death of the last person who wanted to kill us, race quickly out of the country before some additional person suddenly decides he/she wants to kill us, thus necessitating our continued presence in Iraq, in order to kill him/her.

  3. Having left Iraq quickly, do not look back, so as not to witness individuals claiming they would have liked to kill us, which would then necessitate a return to Iraq, in order to etc., etc. (See No. 2, above.)

To implement this exit strategy, we will have to practice running quickly. It is further recommended that, while running, the eyes be cast down, to avoid witnessing any last-minute people trying to kill us. We will have to establish excellent communications so that the moment that final person begins dying, we can all begin running quickly at the same time, eyes cast down, quickly, to our vehicles, to get to the airport and get out of the country.

This exit strategy will demand a high level of coordination, dedication, and planning.

But our leaders have already shown the way by showing that, if one has a vision, and refuses to betray that vision by modifying it, or becoming distracted by small details, such as, for example, the confusing data emanating from the non-theoretical world, filled with actual people, pets, clothes on clotheslines, nuanced loyalties, etc., mountains can be moved, nations can be changed, great things can be accomplished.

It is clear that the fate of Iraq now rests in the hands of Iraqis.

People of Iraq, I say to you:

Stop trying to kill us, so we can leave. But also, do not fear. We are in it for the long haul, although we cannot stay with you indefinitely. No, as soon as you stop trying to kill us, believe us, you will never see us again. Therefore, trust us, people of Iraq, have faith, we assure you: As long as you continue trying to kill us, we will never abandon you.

George Saunders is the author of CivilWarLand in Bad Decline and Pastoralia.

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