Experts Steven Metz and Charles Pena debated U.S. options for withdrawal from Iraq on Sunday in Kresge Auditorium, and though they disagreed on several points, both concluded that a traditional "victory" is not possible.
The debate was held by Americans for Informed Democracy.
Metz, chairman of the Regional Strategy and Planning Department and research professor at the Strategic Studies Institute, told the audience that he has "lived, eaten, breathed, and literally dreamed about Iraq," since he participated in a study team that examined "post-conflict" issues in the area.
The other panelist, Charles Pena, was previously the director of defense policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, and is now the senior fellow at the Independent Institute.
In his opening statement, Metz presented what he believed are misconceptions about the United States in Iraq. He opposed the notion that the "counterinsurgency is a war, so our military must win or lose."
In Metz's view, the counterinsurgency cannot be defeated by the U.S. military; instead, it has to be defeated psychologically or politically. He also addressed the misconception that "the outcome in Iraq is already pre-determined...that the war is lost."
"It's possible for there to be a worse outcome, but there also is the possibility for there to be something better than what we have today," Metz said. "I don't think [a humanitarian disaster] is inevitable."
Finally, Metz critiqued the idea that a speedy U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would encourage resolution of the conflict. Instead of withdrawing immediately, he outlined what his alternate plan would entail.
"I would force the Iraqis to tell us what role they want us to play," he said. "Four years into this conflict, the Iraqi government should be able to develop its own strategies."
Pena agreed with Metz's assessment that the counterinsurgency would not be defeated, but differed on withdrawal.
"I think it's within our strategic interests to withdraw," he said. "I wanted to withdraw even before we invaded."
Pena questioned the nation's interests in Iraq, and what the United States hopes to achieve before leaving.
"Do we have to see some sort of positive outcome? Does Iraq have to be a stable democracy? I would argue fundamentally no," he said.
Security should be the main concern with every country, Pena said. If the United States is assured of this fact, the government should try to limit its involvement.
"The Iraqis are the ones that need to determine their own destiny," said Pena. "We ought to at least be true to the notion of self-determination."