Iraq for the Iraqis

(US Army Photo)

(US Army Photo)

It’s a sign of the diminished role Iraq now plays in US politics that I managed to get through yesterday without writing anything about the historic handover of responsibility to Iraqis, the withdrawal of US forces from Iraqi cities, and the ensuing Iraqi celebration of the end of the daily experience of occupation.

Clearly, though, when you look back at the things liberals like me said about Iraq back in 2007 and thereabouts, you can find a lot of stuff that doesn’t look so much. General Petraeus’ post-midterms revamp of the tactical approach in Iraq achieved gains in security that look a lot more durable than I would have thought possible. At the same point, I think the overarching point I’ve been making about the US presence in Iraq since late 2004 remains incredibly valid—Iraqis don’t want an intrusive American military presence in their country and there’s ultimately no percentage in us trying to buck their will on this point.

It seems to me that if we’d begun to implement a phased withdrawal back in early 2005 when Iraq first got an elected government, we could have had a much better outcome than the one we got. Had we begun to implement one in late 2006 or some time in 2007, then we’d have been leaving a very messy situation behind us. Today in 2009 we’re in a lot of ways back to where we were four years ago—able for American forces to start leaving on a high note, confident that they performed their job with skill, and leaving Iraqi leaders with a handshake.