Sunday, August 18, 2013

Who Lost Iraq?

As the world is transfixed by the events unfolding in Egypt, it is worth noting another epic Obama administration foreign policy failure: Iraq.

A little less than a year ago, Michael Gordon reported in the New York Times that the Obama administration had failed to negotiate an agreement with the Iraqi government that would have allowed American troops to stay in Iraq. He suggested that administration incompetence was to blame for the failure.

Given the source of the report, we ought to take it seriously.

Some have suggested that the Iraqi government was intransigent and wanted all American troops out of its country, but I find Gordon’s analysis more likely.

Barack Obama rose to prominence as an anti-war candidate. He promised to end the war in Iraq and he did just that. He did not say what would come next, but clearly he, and many Americans, wanted to be finished with Iraq. It is stupefying that the debate revolved around ending the war, not winning the war. The easiest way to end a war is to surrender and go home. In the minds of our enemies, that is what the administration did in Iraq.

Moreover, Gordon’s explanation rings true because President Obama had no experience with executive leadership or complex negotiations before he took office. When you send an amateur out to do a professional’s job, it is likely that he will fail.

How’s that policy working out for Iraq? Today, the New York Times reports the grim news:

Across the country, the sectarianism that almost tore Iraq apart after the American-led invasion in 2003 is surging back. The carnage has grown so bloody, with the highest death toll in five years, that truck drivers insist on working in pairs — one Sunni, one Shiite — because they fear being attacked for their sect. Iraqis are numb to the years of violence, yet always calculating the odds as they move through the routine of the day, commuting to work, shopping for food, wondering if death is around the corner.

And this:
The drastic surge in violence — mainly car bombs planted by Al Qaeda’s Iraq affiliate against the Shiite majority, and the security sweeps in majority-Sunni neighborhoods that follow — has lent a new sense of Balkanization to this city. Security forces have increasingly restricted the movements of Iraqis in and out of Sunni areas, relying on the neighborhoods listed on residence cards as an indicator of a sect. Sunnis also fear reprisals from reconstituted Shiite militias, groups once responsible for some of the worst of the sectarian carnage that gripped Iraq just a few years ago.

Even for the hardened residents of the capital, long accustomed to the intrusion of violence into everyday life, the latest upswing in attacks has been disorienting, altering life and routines in a manner that has cast a pall of fear over this city.

Now, apparently, the Iraqi government is asking for some American troops to return to help stem the violence. Some have seen this request as a sign that the Iraqis have had a change of heart and that there was nothing Obama could have done to conclude a satisfactory status of forces agreement.

Surely, many people in Iraq, and many officials in the Obama administration believe that the real problem in the Middle East is Western colonialism. By their lights, if Westerners withdraw from the region—beginning with Israel—all will be well.

Perhaps, the Iraqi government has seen the light. One knows that the Obama administration will never agree to send American troops back into Iraq. In that he will have the support of most Americans.


Anonymous said...

Lost Iraq? Was Iraq american? Do you owe this country to lose it?

Lastango said...

"The easiest way to end a war is to surrender and go home. In the minds of our enemies, that is what the administration did in Iraq."

Quite so. But it isn't necessary to be an enemy to come to that conclusion. The Bush administration managed the American public's perception of the level of violence in Iraq by minimizing combat. It did so (in concert with allies like the British) by ceding the entire west of the country to the Sunnis, and the entire south to Iran and its proxy al Sadr. Then it armed the Sunnis as a counterweight to al Sadr, and retreated to Baghdad. This retreat, let us recall, was cleverly named the "Surge".

When a US Marine Corps officer told a reporter that the cessation of of the Marine attack on Fallujah and turning it over to the enemy was a blueprint for the rest of Iraq, he captured the US agenda in a nutshell.

Besides Fallujah, I could offer multiple examples of US abdication. Let's never forget that the concerted political effort to get rid of the phrase "War on Terror" was born in the Bush White House. As one general put it when he tried to sell this perfidy, when we use the term "war" we tend to think of the military as the solution. For the Bushies (GWB, Powell, Rice, Gates, etc.), doing as little as possible in Iraq in order to make it easier to get the hell out was the only goal that mattered. (It's worth keeping that in mind when pondering the origins of the mindset that would lead the US government to label a mass shooting by someone yelling Allahu Akbar as "workplace violence". Call it "terrorism", and we might reach the mistaken conclusion that it would be a good idea to find the supporters of that terrorism and crush them. Ditto the Obamaites' reluctance to attach the T-word to "events" in Benghazi.

To achieve their Grand Bargain with Iran -- Iran gets most of Iraq, the Administration gets a political exit from the theater -- the Bushies found it necessary to allow Iran to use its proxies to use explosives to kill hundreds, perhaps thousands of our troops in Iraq, with zero risk of retaliation. Iran knew the Bushies wanted out in the worst way, and would never engage in the level of military action needed to shut down Iranian aggression inside Iraq. (The Administration's pseudo-action as it pretended to confront Iran's nuclear program was another aspect of our utter surrender.)

The reduced level of fighting allowed the Bushies to claim success. Peace was at hand. In reality, the fighting only died down because once the US had surrendered, there was no longer any reason to fight us. Retreating to our bases, we had already gone home in every sense except that we still had some troops there -- troops that were, by design, doing absolutely nothing. Obama brought them physically home, adding a closing bracket to the Bushies' phony war.