American Elephants


“Leaving Iraq? As If This Was My Decision” Part II by The Elephant's Child

It is true that the Bush administration had agreed to end our troop presence. Iraq, naturally wanted to govern their own  country on their own. They were aware that their military needed more training in order to keep the peace. If we were going to stay, Obama had to negotiate a new “status of force agreement” with the Iraqis.

Why that didn’t happen is a complicated question, and Iraqis wanting to be in control of their own country was part of the answer, but only part. Obama was ambivalent about retaining any force in the country. The American officials who were negotiating with the Iraqis were left without guidance from the White House for months.

Dexter Filkins who wrote a definitive piece for The New Yorker quoted an Iraqi politician: “The American attitude was: Let’s get out of here as quickly as possible.”

This was Obama’s most important political promise. I’m not at all sure that it is actually what Americans wanted. The media’s favorite cliché is “war weary.” In the face of a long political campaign centered on mostly meaningless phrases, ending the War in Iraq was one of the few real promises. Obama proudly declared “Mission Accomplished.”

It may not have made any difference, but troops on the ground would have given us a large measure of influence. The Middle East is not much given to peaceful elective government. See Rick Lowry’s piece in the New York Post.

Without the United States as an honest broker, it has been downhill ever since. Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, the former deputy commander in Iraq, told Filkins, “Everything that has happened there was not just predictable — we predicted it.”

Iraq is perhaps the purest expression of the Obama doctrine.




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