The Obama administration has declared the war in Iraq is all but over.
“It is time to turn the page,” the president declared in his nationwide address, renewing his pledge to have all U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of 2011. Fewer than 50,000 are there now, down from the war’s high of 170,000.
He says “formal combat operations” are over, meaning that what the troops do will be either reactive or in support of Iraqi troops.
But six months after the elections, Iraq still has no government. There is still no law on how the oil revenues will be divided among the country’s competing claimants. The Shiite militias and the Sunni insurgents have been quiet, but by no means have they disbanded. And an al-Qaida-linked terrorist group killed 56 people last week in a series of coordinated bombings.
We hope that he’s right, that the war is coming to a close and that the Iraqi government we leave behind is fully capable of looking after itself. But nothing during the course of our more-than-seven-year stay in Iraq suggests that departing will be that easy.
It was seven years ago that President George W. Bush declared “Mission Accomplished,” the end of major combat operations. In the sense of large units maneuvering against Iraqi regulars, that was true. But the worst fighting and the majority of U.S. deaths were still to come.
And the war would not have ended — or ended as well - had not Bush later had the courage to implement the surge in the face of concerted opposition from nearly all of his advisors and all the Democrats on Capitol Hill — including then-Sen. Obama, who is now shamelessly trying to claim credit for the fruits of the policy he loudly opposed at the time.
Obama did note in his speech that he had phoned Bush on Tuesday as a courtesy. But he failed in his speech to give the former president the credit he deserves for winning the war.
More importantly, Obama did not even make a cursory attempt to explain to the American people why it is important going forward that Iraq’s fledgling democracy continue to grow, and the significance of having a strong Iraq as an ally to counterbalance the nuclear-armed lunacy of neighboring Iran. Neither did Obama make more than the briefest of mentions of the general who conceived and implemented the surge strategy — David Petraeus, mentioning his name exactly once. Yet, in a speech ostensibly about Iraq and national security, Obama rambled on for paragraph after paragraph after paragraph about the importance of passing his economic agenda.
In short, it was a graceless performance.
Obama’s haste to depart Iraq with the job only three-quarters finished does not bode well for the future. It frankly is reminiscent of the eager way the U.S. washed its hands of its ally, South Vietnam, in 1973. And we all remember what happened there just two years later. One would hope that Washington would have learned from its mistakes.
Rather than racing away from Iraq, the better course would be to keep a sizeable combat-ready force there for years if need be (as we have in Germany, Japan and South Korea) until the period of danger is over. It’s not there yet. And leaving too soon merely hastens the odds that the U.S. may someday be drawn back there — something no one wants.
—Marietta Daily Journal