President Obama just announced that he intends to have all United States combat troops out of Iraq by the end of the month and remaining U.S. troops out of the country by the end of 2011.
This is an extremely cynical move by Obama. He is making it for purely political reasons and is in effect abandoning the Iraqi people and their fledgling democracy. It really has to do with Afghanistan and his image as Commander-In Chief of America’s military, not Iraq.
The war in Afghanistan is going very badly, there is no hope of victory in conventional terms, whatever moderate improvements that have been made in the lives of some Afghans cannot be sustained and the country as a whole will go straight back to the dark ages as soon as the West, meaning America, leaves, as it will. The President is being criticized vociferously over Afghanistan and the criticism promises to grow in scope and intensity as the American people come to recognize the futility of the situation there. Obama thinks that by announcing success in Iraq he can get Americans to overlook or disregard failure in Afghanistan, at least in the short term. This is especially important with the midterm elections coming up. He badly needs a military success story to foist on the electorate, so he’s made one up and will use spin doctors and public relations flacks to milk it for everything it’s worth. The fact that it has nothing to do with reality is irrelevant.
That is bound to backfire. The Iraqi government will simply not be in a position to defend itself by the end of 2011 and the American withdrawal means that violence and death will increase as any number of parties, including foreign governments and religious factions, try their utmost to bring it down. Iraq’s democracy cannot survive without the protection of the United States military and it is folly to think otherwise. The news coming out of Iraq will get worse and worse as U.S. soldiers depart. Obama must believe that a lid can be kept on things until after the elections and that afterwards it doesn’t really matter because he can always blame George Bush (Iraq was his war after all), the Iraqis themselves, American scapegoats of his choosing, even the tooth fairy if he has to, as circumstances inevitably deteriorate.
He’s wrong of course. It matters a great deal, in human, geopolitical and domestic political terms. Thousands if not millions of Iraqis will suffer and die needlessly and the national security of the United States will be sorely compromised. In the end, Americans will see the withdrawal for what it is, short term thinking in the extreme and a cynical political move made to help keep him in power, nothing more.
If you think things are bad in Iraq now just wait. Let’s be honest. U.S. withdrawal may be the end of combat for Americans there, but it’s just the real beginning for everyone else.