The War’s End


SOFA and security pact pass Iraqi parliament — US forces will leave by 2011 and the only sense in which it isn’t a fixed timetable is that they might leave sooner. Days ago I read something relevant that I strongly disagreed with on the Abu Muqawama counterinsurgency blog:

Regardless, at no point were either Sen. McCain or Sen. Obama key players in future U.S. policy in Iraq. In fact, either of them was going to inherit a course — negotiated by the Iraqis and U.S. policy-makers in Baghdad — that might or might not have looked anything like what they wanted to do. It was Sen. Obama’s good luck that his vision of a future U.S. presence in Iraq looked a lot like the vision of the Iraqis.

It’s not luck that liberals’ vision of a future U.S. presence in Iraq was closer to Iraqis’ vision than was the vision of America’s neo-imperalist camp. Rather, liberals’ take on the matter has always been informed by both awareness of actual Iraqi public opinion (which has been hostile to the American presence since at least 2004) and to the folly of empire more broadly. It’s not a coincidence that when you look at the annals of counterinsurgency “success” stories — Kenya, Malaya, etc. — the success looks pretty equivocal and the occupying power winds up leaving in the end.

Had out policy not been dominated by foolish dreams of a US-dominated Iraq, we could have extricated ourselves with honor and dignity over the course of 2005 — declaring victory at the formation of the post-Saddam Iraqi government. Instead, we pursued a bloody and costly alternative course for years before, eventually, even the war’s keenest proponents came to recognize the realities of of the situation.