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December 27, 2011

Tragedy in Iraq... and don't think it will stay there

There's nothing like being personally involved in local politics to make you realize that by comparison simple blogging about far away issues is small potatoes indeed. One day maybe I'll get back to this, and then again maybe not. Until then posts will be few and far between, but you've already figured that out.

Here we go. Last month Frederick and Kimberly Kagan warned about the crisis unfolding in Iraq in the wake of President Obama's ill-considered decision to withdraw willy-nilly from Iraq. In an article posted today they tell us that the country is going, going...

With administration officials celebrating the "successful" withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, thanking antiwar groups for making that withdrawal possible, and proffering outrageous claims about Iraq's "stability," "sovereignty," and the "demilitarization" of American foreign policy even as Iraq collapses, it is hard to stay focused on America's interests and security requirements. Especially in an election year, the temptation will only grow to argue about who lost Iraq, whether it was doomed from the outset, whether the current disaster "proves" either that the success of the surge was inherently ephemeral or that the withdrawal of U.S. troops caused the collapse. The time will come for such an audit of Iraq policy over the last five years, but not yet. For the crisis in Iraq is still unfolding, and the United States continues to have a huge stake in the outcome. The question of the moment is not "Who lost Iraq?" but rather "Is Iraq definitely lost?"

It certainly seems so.

I will answer the question they avoid doing; it is impossible to know whether the venture was doomed from the outset but it was President Obama who lost it, and he did so deliberately. All to satisfy the kook left, of course.

And if you detect a bit of bitterness from team Kagan in today's piece, consider that they started out the December warning piece I mentioned with this gen

We interrupt President Obama's celebration of keeping a campaign promise to bring you news from Iraq, where a political crisis has been unfolding since just hours after Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta departed on Thursday

I can't say I blame them. We've come so far, and gone though so much, only to have out idiot president throw it all away, partially for the sake of electoral expediency, partially to satisfy the Democrat party's kook left, and partially because he's part of that kook left himself.

It didn't have to be this way. As team Kagan pointed out last month

Some will say that the failure of the Iraqi political and sectarian settlement was inevitable, that the "surge"--as they predicted--produced only temporary results, and that Iraq was irretrievably lost the moment American forces invaded in 2003. Those arguments are simply wrong. The ethno-sectarian settlement endured tremendous tests from its tentative establishment in 2007 until President Obama announced the end of American presence in Iraq. Its endurance was unquestionably underwritten by the presence of American troops, who provided critical double-guarantees: they guaranteed Maliki against the Sunni coup d'├ętat he evidently fears so much, and they guaranteed the Sunni Arabs against precisely the sort of vengeful misuse of Iraq's security forces now occurring. Interestingly, they continued to be effective in that guarantor's role even after they had withdrawn from combat operations, were taking virtually no casualties, and were not even moving around the country very much. It may be that an American military presence of 10,000-15,000 troops (as General Lloyd Austin ultimately suggested) would have been required for a long time to help the settlement not only endure, but harden into something that could stand on its own. Such a presence would still have been smaller than what the U.S. has in Korea today--and has had there for 60 years. The decision to abandon Iraq entirely will stand as one of the monumental strategic follies of the 21st century, and the cost of that disastrous choice are already emerging starkly.

American options for trying to mitigate the damage are limited, but nevertheless important. The U.S. should immediately threaten to withhold assistance, including the shipment of military aircraft Iraq recently ordered, if Maliki does not back down and adhere to the commitments he made to the Sunni bloc. Washington should engage Ankara energetically to enforce a common front toward the Kurds. Kurdish parliamentarians--and security forces--remain key players in this drama, but they have been acting selfishly and fearfully, always with one eye on the door out of Iraq and into independence. Many Kurdish leaders apparently believe that even if the U.S. will not back them, Turkey will. But it is no more in Turkey's interest than in ours to see Iraq once more in flames. Now is the time for some smart power in the region.

Above all, however, now is the time to show that this administration actually cares about what happens in Iraq. It is not enough for the vice president to phone it in. The secretary of state should go to Baghdad, not to celebrate our withdrawal, but to play an active role in mediating the aftermath. Obama should invite Maliki and his Sunni and Kurdish counterparts to a summit somewhere in the West to hash this out. If not, we will no doubt be treated to yet another series of visits by Iraqi leaders to Tehran as the Iranians again demonstrate their willingness to engage where Americans withdraw.

But of course Obama didn't do any of these things because he doesn't really care.

We all knew that things would get tricky as American troops left, and violence did indeed rise, so it's not as if Obama couldn't have seen this coming. but then, he would have had to cared.

If I still have to point out the obvious then I will; our enemies are watching and laughing. All along they bet that we would not have the willpower to stick it out for the long haul and once again they may have been proven correct. They watched us leave Vietnam, pull out of Beirut, run from Mogadishu (have I missed anything?) and now we're giving up on Iraq and Afghanistan. Those who blather about "redeployment" don't realize that our enemies have discovered that they can make us leave anywhere if they keep up the pressure long enough.

Oh well, Obama may well strike Iran. If he does we will be assured by his supporters that this "proves" that he is really a tough guy yada yada. Well, we'll see if he does, and whether he's willing to sustain a weeks long bombardment (yes I said weeks long as in plural, as in many weeks of continuous fighting because that's what it will take), whether he's willing to let our navy sink blow every Iranian vessel out of the water regardless of whether it is a "threat" to our forces, and whether he is willing to tell both the striped pants set at the State Department and the moral relativist set at the United Nations to pound sand. If he does all these my hat will be off to him... but he'll still have been the president who lost Iraq.

Posted by Tom at December 27, 2011 8:00 PM

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