As I’ve noted before, sometimes President Obama acts as if the world revolves around him—and, of course, in his case, it actually does. An example is our departure from Iraq, which the president appears to regard largely in terms of one of his campaign promises that he has fulfilled. Just in time for 2012!
The world becomes more dangerous and Iran freer to act with this retreat. You can argue, as many of my conservative friends do, that Saddam Hussein was the appropriate bulwark against Iran’s regional ambitions and that we made a mess by going into Iraq. But we went in and established a rough kind of stability.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says:
"Even as our troops come home, the United States' commitment to Iraq's future as a secure, stable, democratic nation remains as strong as ever," she said at a news conference in the Tajik capital. "This will end the war and it will open a new chapter in our relationship," Clinton said Saturday.
And close the door on the way out.
In a piece in the Weekly Standard Frederick and Kimberley Kagan and Marisa Cochran Sullivan call the president’s decision to abandon Iraq “the mother of all disasters.” They note that “two dramatic challenges to the security of the American homeland” can be found in the region: the threat of attack by terrorists and the prospect of Iran’s acquiring nuclear weapons.
On both these issues the withdrawal is harmful to American interests:
American national security strategy on a central front in two conflicts is now a smoking ruin. It may be some time before the full weight of this defeat is apparent in newspapers or on television. Its effects will be felt increasingly, however, as America’s leaders grapple with a rising and nuclearizing Iran and the reemergence of al Qaeda franchises in the Arab world.
Of course, if you think mean old sanctions are going to do the trick and deter Iran, you probably don’t agree with the Kagans and Ms. Sullivan.
The president says we are leaving because of Iraqi intransigence (just like those awful Republicans in Congress?) in negogiating a Status of Froces Agreement. Max Boot says that the president never took the negotiations seriously:
Quite simply it was a matter of will: President Bush really wanted to get a deal done, whereas Mr. Obama did not. Mr. Bush spoke weekly with Mr. Maliki by video teleconference. Mr. Obama had not spoken with Mr. Maliki for months before calling him in late October to announce the end of negotiations. Mr. Obama and his senior aides did not even bother to meet with Iraqi officials at the United Nations General Assembly in September….
[The president] also undercut his own negotiating team by regularly bragging—in political speeches delivered while talks were ongoing—of his plans to "end" the "war in Iraq." Even more damaging was his August decision to commit only 3,000 to 5,000 troops to a possible mission in Iraq post-2011. This was far below the number judged necessary by our military commanders.
So the end of the U.S. military mission in Iraq is a tragedy, not a triumph—and a self-inflicted one at that.
In a separate article, Boot says that U.S. officials are “fooling themselves” if they believe that beefing up U.S. military in Persian Gulf countries compensates for this complete withdrawal. The aptly-named Mr. Boot believes that the U.S. will have less ability to contain Iran without boots on the ground in Iraq.
Speaking as somebody who supported the Iraq war and saw it as a way to change the region—and I know many conservatives did not share this view—I am ready to say that, if I’d known that, having virtually won the war, we’d elect a naïf who thinks his hollow speeches to the Muslim world matter more than American victory, I’d not have supported the war. We won…and then we lost.
As much as I dislike writing the above words, I am sure the retreat is more painful to those who gave a limb or two for an effort that could have made us competitive against Iranian ambitions.