Recently, I participated in a conference call based on a report from The Task Force For A Responsible Withdrawal From Iraq. The report argued that the United States can and should do the following: quickly withdraw American military forces from Iraq, "carefully pursue diplomatic remedies for the Iraq crisis," and "generously give to help rebuild Iraq in the long run." For the policy wonks, the report offers twenty-five proposals which are subdivided into five sections. For those desiring something more concise, there is also an executive summary.
I understood that the report would be the what, or the content of our conversation, but I also wondered: Why is yet another foreign policy discussion about Iraq important?
During the call, Congressman James McGovern, a Democrat representative from Massachusetts and influential voice in the discussion, provided a response. He stated, "people who have been consistently anti-war have a responsibility to lead the conversation on how to get out of Iraq." Although he did not direct his comments specifically to the faith community, his words nonetheless extend an urgent challenge to those who prophesy for peace.
Perhaps it is no longer enough to inquire about the coordinates of weapons of mass destruction and argue, as Steven Simon does in The Price of the Surge, that the surge reduced violence while also reducing the possibility of a "stable, unitary Iraq." Even as we emulate the prophet Jeremiah and weep for 4,000 dead American soldiers and 83,000 dead Iraqi non-combatants, Congressman McGovern reminds us that we can--and perhaps must--do more. Perhaps the prophetic task is not only to critique what went wrong, but to provide a vision of how things can go right, a vision of how we can responsibly withdraw from Iraq. Perhaps, to borrow an image from Jim Wallis, prophetic voices for peace can "change the winds" of foreign policy discussion and help create a climate for politicians to pursue sustainable peace in Iraq. Perhaps.
Andrew Wilkes is a policy and organizing intern at Sojourners. He is currently pursuing a Masters of Divinity degree at Princeton Theological Seminary.