Today's humanitarian crisis in Iraq -- and the potential consequences for our national security -- are great. Can the United States afford to gamble that 4 million or more poor and displaced people, in the heart of Middle East, won't explode in violent desperation, sending the whole region into further disorder?
What we cannot afford, in my view, is to squander the progress that has been made. In fact, we should step up our financial and material assistance. UNHCR has appealed for $261 million this year to provide for refugees and internally displaced persons. That is not a small amount of money -- but it is less than the U.S. spends each day to fight the war in Iraq. I would like to call on each of the presidential candidates and congressional leaders to announce a comprehensive refugee plan with a specific timeline and budget as part of their Iraq strategy.
As for the question of whether the surge is working, I can only state what I witnessed: U.N. staff and those of non-governmental organizations seem to feel they have the right set of circumstances to attempt to scale up their programs. And when I asked the troops if they wanted to go home as soon as possible, they said that they miss home but feel invested in Iraq. They have lost many friends and want to be a part of the humanitarian progress they now feel is possible.
These words were not written by the usual kind of author. It's not John McCain, George Bush, Karl Rove or some other warmongering neocon. The truth is, it was written by Angelina Jolie. In this instance, Ms. Jolie has a good grasp on the situation.
Normally, I wouldn't be so eager to dump a wad of cash like she's wanting, unless the cause is worthy. Like Gen. Powell once said, "If we break it, we pay for it."
By removing Saddam, a vacuum has been created. The vacuum is being filled and gets closer all the time. But looming in the distance, Iran is more than willing to fill that vacuum if we were to leave. This would throw the region into more turmoil than at any time up to this point.
Obama's plans for Iraq are flawed. The outcomes from implementing his immediate withdrawal would recreate this void. And just to pour salt on the wound, he would even sit down with someone that would certainly love to fill it, if we left prematurely.
As Ms. Jolie says in her essay, conditions are getting better and the time is right to begin implementing some initiatives that will further stabilize the Iraqi government, and provide relief for the people.
Folks, like it or not, it's the only way this has a chance to be resolved with true peace as a realistic outcome. This is how you move on. This is the only hope the Iraqis know. In reality, it's the only hope for the world. Fail here, it all goes (even further) south afterward.
Ask yourself as you crawl into your warm bed at night: Do you really want to help these people, or do you hate George Bush enough to tear down whatever good has been done, and in some cases prevent it from ever happening? Obama's plan will do just that.