Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Feckless Diplomacy

It’s not a sexy topic. There’s no real drama to it. It does not attract very much media interest.

Killing Moammar Qaddafi is dramatic and even sexy. It makes for a great story. It compels attention. It fills the airways.

Unfortunately, it also distracts.

While Hillary Clinton and other administration figures are taking victory laps over Libya, they ought to be bowing their heads in shame over what they are doing to Iraq.

The retreat from Iraq is an important story. It is a story of feckless diplomacy, committed by people who did not understand diplomacy, but who only wanted one thing: to withdraw.

Former State Department official Elise Jordan writes: “The Iraqis kicked us out. After investing hundreds of billions of dollars and sacrificing over 4,000 American servicemen and women (and tens of thousands of more Iraqi soldiers and civilians), the Obama administration finally gave up. President Obama had opposed the war, and his team couldn’t be bothered to flex the diplomatic muscle necessary to ensure all our efforts there hadn’t gone to waste.

“You get the sense that the administration won’t even care too much if Iraq unravels — they’ll still be able to pat themselves on the back for the positions they took in 2003. “

Since the problems are all framed in diplomacy-speak, they are complex.

Did the Obama administration want to conclude a Status of Forces Agreement that would have allowed American troops to remain in Iraq? Or was it heading straight for the exit, no matter what?

Max Boot explains: “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 administration didn't even open talks on renewing the Status of Forces Agreement until this summer, a few months before U.S. troops would have to start shuttering their remaining bases to pull out by Dec. 31. The previous agreement, in 2008, took a year to negotiate.”

Why was Obama so willing to remove all American troops from Iraq?

Obama is not a strategic thinker. He sees the world through the lens of an ideology. In his ideology, it is bad for Western military personnel to “occupy” Muslim lands.

It doesn't matter whether Obama knew what he was doing? He did everything in his power to ensure a result that would fulfill the dreams of Islamists everywhere: Muslim lands free of Westerners.


Mike said...

The effort in Iraq was far more important than Afghanistan. The cold geopolitical calculus real leaders are supposed to make says so.

Our goals in Afghanistan are negative ones - we don't want the place to be a training staging ground for terrorists, and we don't want the opium produced there to be a funding source for them. Other than that there is nothing we do want there, at least nothing worth the price we would have to pay. After 9-11, we should have staged a punitive expedition to remove the Taliban and then left the place to its own devices. The resulting chaos would have served as well as any other outcome. Cynical perhaps, but its not like the result is going to be any different after we leave anyway.

Iraq is a different story altogether. We could have had military bases which let us protect the oil shipping routes, and provide adequate logistical support to project power against the real enemy - Iran. In addition imagine the impact on the greater middle east of a country on the evolutionary arc of South Korea - 50 years from primitive agrarian tribalism to a modern world class economy - that would go a long way toward making the world a safer place, and would be worth the cost.

Apparently our leaders, such as they are, view things differently.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Those are excellent points, Mike. Thanks so much for adding them.