Saturday, October 22, 2011

Today's Reading Assignment

Max Boot, in Commentary magazine, on President Obama's decision to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of this year:

Far from being cause for celebration, Obama’s announcement that we will keep only 150 U.S. troops in Iraq after the end of the year–down from nearly 50,000 today–represents a shameful failure of American foreign policy that risks undoing all the gains that so many Americans, Iraqis, and other allies have sacrificed so much to achieve. The risks of a catastrophic failure in Iraq now rise appreciably. The Iranian Quds Force must be licking its chops because we are now leaving Iraq essentially defenseless against its machinations. Conversely the broad majority of Iraqis who fear Iranian influence and who want their country to become a democracy will come to rue this day, however big a victory it might appear in the short term for the cause of Iraqi nationalism.

Ostensibly this pull-out was dictated by the unwillingness of Iraqi lawmakers to grant U.S. troops immunity from prosecution. But Iraqi leaders of all parties, save the Sadrists, also clearly signaled their desire to have a sizable American troop contingent post-2011. The issue of immunity could have been finessed if administration lawyers from the Departments of State and Defense had not insisted that Iraq’s parliament would have to vote to grant our troops protections from Iraqi laws. Surely some face-saving formula that would not have needed parliamentary approval could have been negotiated that would have assuaged Iraqi sovereignty concerns while making it unlikely in the extreme that any U.S. soldier would ever go before an Iraqi court for actions taken in the line of duty.

Clearly, we can't stay in Iraq forever, but the Obama plan runs counter to the security interests of both the United States and our Iraqi allies. As Mr. Boot notes, both the U.S. military and much of the Iraqi government favored a continuing American presence, for counter-terrorism operations; as a deterrent against Iranian meddling, and to ensure adequate training for Iraqi security forces.

Boot argues that the U.S. should re-open negotiations on our military presence as soon as the current withdrawal is complete. He believes we need at least 10, 000 troops in Iraq to handle the security and training mission--about half the number recommended by senior American military commanders earlier this year.

Unfortunately, prospects for a short-term U.S. return are virtually nil. Mr. Obama saw an opportunity to appease his base and fulfill a campaign promise, with little regard for the long-term security consequences. That raises another issue: will President Obama (or a Republican successor) be willing to send even larger numbers of U.S. troops back to Iraq in two or three years, when the security situation becomes untenable? Or will the Commander-in-Chief sit idly by and allow Iraq to become a puppet of Tehran?

It's a question worth posing at the next White House press conference (fat chance of that happening), and at the next GOP presidential candidates' debate.
ADDENDUM: Similar warnings from Professor Frederick Kagan (the intellectual father of the Iraq surge strategy) at the Weekly Standard.


Bugler said...

If we leave now, Iraq will become a satellite of Iran. If we leave a thousand years from now, Iraq will become a satellite of Iran. We should have left in 2009.

Bugler said...

If we leave now, Iraq will become a satellite of Iran. If we leave a hundred years from now, Iraq will become a satellite of Iran. We should have left in 2009.

Anonymous said...

But in the end, if the Iraqis, including Shi'ite Iraqis, aren't willing to stand-up and fight the Iranians, why should we?

Perhaps an independent Kurdistan is the way to go. The Kurds will fight. We can just give them weapons and air support, no need for ground troops.

JoeD said...

The first thought that popped into my head after I heard this news is that perhaps these troops were being withdrawn in advance of an Israeli strike on Iran; to get them out of the way of a massive Iranian counterattack.

Iran could flood troops across the Iraqi border and overrun our troops or launch a missile strike or both.

It's difficult to hit what's not there.

Time will tell.