Hitchens argues for our continuing responsibility to Iraq:
The United States appears to have played a part in Saddam’s original accession to power: it certainly sided with him in his catastrophic war on Iran and provided him with the sinews of war that he was later to employ against his “own” people. After his eviction from Kuwait, it was successive administrations which decided to leave (i.e. confirm) him in power, subject his people to demoralizing and impoverishing sanctions and protect the Shiites and Kurds (who together constitute a majority) from a renewal of genocide. This is a weight of responsibility that makes it quite premature to talk about any “exit strategy.” We did help break Iraq, and we do partly own it.
He also addresses the frequent comparisons of the current situation – which he believes is unprecedented in history – to previous misadventures:
There is nothing remotely comparable here with the experience of the French in Algeria and Indochina, or with the experience of the United States in Indochina, let alone that of the Israelis in Lebanon. The United States has not claimed territory in Iraq, as the French did in Algeria: it is not the inheritor of a bankrupt French colonialism, as Eisenhower and Kennedy were in Vietnam; and it is not pursuing a vendetta, as was Sharon in Lebanon.
It is, instead, in a situation where no superpower has ever been before.
In closing, Hitchens points out the danger of our policy blowing in the winds of domestic opinion, but suggests that an Iraqi referendum on what the U.S. role should be would be a profitable exercise:
If our calculations become unduly inflected by considerations of American domestic opinion, then both Iraqis and foreign intruders (and their state backers in Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia) have only to set their watches and begin making their respectively pessimistic and gloating dispositions. We thus condition the outcome without much influencing it.
A possible solution — ask the Iraqis what should be done — is insufficiently canvassed. As a means of concentrating all minds, one could either propose a vote in the Iraqi parliament, or a national referendum, on the single question of a date for withdrawal to begin. Much might be learned from the analysis of the results, and we could remind people again that Iraq is the only country in the region, apart from Lebanon, where citizens are regularly called to the polling-booth. This was part of the point to begin with.