Kagan On Iraq: What I Previously Redefined As Success Should Now Be Considered Failure Again

Responding angrily to the Obama administration’s decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of this year, the American Enterprise Institute’s Fred Kagan writes that President Obama “has decided to abandon America’s interest in Iraq and damage our position in the Middle East”:

This retreat will have great costs for the United States. It squanders the gains made by both American and Iraqi military forces over the last four years, but, even more important, it squanders the enormous opportunity to forge an alliance with Iraq at a time when such an alliance would be of tremendous value to the United States. It dramatically increases the likelihood that the new and unstable Iraqi democratic experiment — already under attack from an authoritarian prime minister and a hostile Islamic Republic of Iran — will fail. The withdrawal of American forces now serving as peacekeepers along the Arab-Kurd seam greatly increases the likelihood of ethnic civil war. The withdrawal of American military protection from a state helpless to defend itself on its own effectively throws Iraq into the arms of Iran, however the Iraqis feel about the matter.

Interestingly, Kagan doesn’t mention that this “retreat” is being done in accordance with an agreement that the previous administration signed with the Iraqi government.

Even more interestingly, when that agreement was signed, Fred Kagan himself hailed it as a great U.S. success, telling radio host Hugh Hewitt:


The Iranians are desperate for Iraq not to align itself strategically with the United States, and they have been literally trying to bribe everybody they can bribe in Iraq, and running a fantastic information operations campaign in Iraq to make this an unpopular and hard thing to do. And the Iraqi government has done it anyway. And that is actually a great accomplishment for us, and it tells us a lot about where this Shia Iraqi government actually stands on whether it wants to be aligned with the United States, or whether it wants to be aligned with Iran.

So, just to be clear: Signing the agreement was a great success. Actually following it is a failure. Got it.

Cross-posted from Middle East Progress.