Reputation and U.S. Withdrawal from Iraq

Abstract

The need to demonstrate America’s resolve is a major argument among those who oppose a premature U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. According to this argument, a quick exit from Iraq would be a major blow to U.S. credibility and embolden the forces of radical Islam in their war against the United States. This article assesses this “reputational” argument and concludes that evidence from radical Islamists’ pronouncements gives the argument significant and unprecedented forcefulness. These pronouncements unmistakably call into question the United States’ resoluteness by pointing to America’s past withdrawals from theaters of war and declare Iraq as the central front, raising the reputational stake of a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq considerably. The potency of the reputational argument is also unprecedented when it is compared to its similar formulation during the Vietnam War, when it was vague and short of supporting evidence. The reputational argument may play an important rationale in maintaining a substantial level of American forces in Iraq for years to come.

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