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On the Newsstand: Iraq Could Poison American Politics For a Generation

The biggest challenge facing the next president is not leaving Iraq, but keeping America in one piece on the way out. A recent issue of The Atlantic explains that Iraq is the most partisan US war in history. Unlike Vietnam, which divided Americans within the parties, the differences between Republicans and Democrats reached as high as 60 percentage points.

The article warns that a party-line retreat will tear the country apart. Many Republicans think Democrats are intentionally undermining the war effort to improve their political prospects. This understanding could lead to the narrative of betrayal — the "we never really lost" or "some of us defeated the rest" narrative.

So how do we protect the soul of the country? To find out,

. The article offers a few scenarios — everyone is fed up and a withdrawal is uncontroversial; the Republicans win the White House, the Democrats win Congress and the parties work together. But, if the Democrats win control of both branches, they must make a decision: withdraw immediately on party-line Congressional votes, or more slowly at a pace that commands support among Republicans.

A middle-ground plan is necessary. It could guarantee a reduction in troops each year, but allow for a flexible pace of withdrawal that would be faster than Bush preferred, but slower than the liberal base demands. If the Democrats rush to exit against a unified, yet powerless, Republican party, they will be blamed for whatever disasters followed in Iraq, or the entire Middle East. Check out the original article, which offers such wise advice.

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