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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

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July 5, 2009

Though Iraq was Bush’s most expensive mistake and the US withdrawal from Iraq cannot be considered a victory, Bush did provide his successor with a gift: the 2008 Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq, which negotiated a timetable for the orderly removal of U.S. forces. The lame-duck Bush had to retreat from occupation because there were only two major factions in Iraqi politics: those who want the United States out within a couple of years and those who want the United States out now.

BrownDObamasurfing.jpg .jpg Dave Brown

The United States is no longer in a position to guide Iraq's political future.The task for the Iraq government is to end the civil war between the Shi'ites, Sunni's and Kurds and to keep the civil conflicts from becoming civil war. This is not going to easy in a corrupt Iraq.

Stephen M. Walt makes an acute observation on the military tactics and the much heralded surge:

Although often touted as a great success, the fate of the 2007 "surge" reveals the limits of U.S. influence clearly. Although it did lower sectarian violence, the surge did not lead to significant political reconciliation between the contending Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish groups. The "surge" was thus a tactical success but a strategic failure, and that failure is instructive. If increased force levels, improved counterinsurgency tactics, and our best military leadership could not "turn the corner" politically in Iraq, then prolonging our occupation beyond the timetable outlined in the SOFA agreement makes no sense. No matter how long we stay, Iraq is likely to face similar centrifugal forces, and our presence is doing little to reduce them.

Continued Sunni Arab resistance to the Shiite-dominated Maliki Government and the Kurdish-Arab wrangling over Kirkuk and other disputed territories--can only be resolved politically, not by military force.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:45 PM | | Comments (4)


Ivan Arreguîn-Toft in a guest post on Stephen M. Walt blogs says:

After it became obvious that self-defense could not stand as a justification for the invasion, conquest, and occupation of a distant sovereign state, Americans turned to the positive objective of aiding Iraq's transition to a stable, democratic state; with the understanding that "democratic" meant "like us." This would protect us from terrorism, high oil prices, and just make us feel good. It wouldn't hurt Israel either. But nothing like that is even a remote possibility.

Iraq is hardly a victory for the US.

Juan Cole puts it well in The Nation:

The United States invaded a country that had not attacked it, dissolved its army and much of its government, threw it into chaos, and set in train events that probably have led to the deaths of as many as a million Iraqis and have left more than 4 million displaced. It is a burned-out hulk of a country, full of widows and orphans, of the unemployed and the marginalized, still infested with militias and suffering daily bombings and assassinations. The United States kicked off an ethno-religious free-for-all that could still tear the country apart.

Iraq is a burned-out hulk of a country, full of widows and orphans, of the unemployed and the marginalized, still infested with militias and suffering daily bombings and assassinations.

Best of all, Obama gets his own war, as moral compensation- If Bush can stuff up Iraq, Obama can repeat this in Afghanistan, and the sequence reaching back to the last peace making president( was there ever one? )remains unbroken.

I cannot think of a US President in the 20th century who hasn't waged a war. Maybe the US needs wars to ensure it remains unified?