There was an article in the NYT yesterday (9.23) on Iraq, which appears to be critical of the Obama Administrations’s efforts to end the military presence in Iraq: “In US Exit From Iraq, Failed Efforts of Americas Last Months in Iraq”. It’s an excerpt from a book due out next week called the “Endgame: The inside story of the struggle for Iraq, from George W. Bush to Barack Obama” by Michael Gordon, the NYT reporter and retired Lt. Gen. Bernard E. Trainer. The timing is suspiciously political. It’s even a 2nd printing. Didn’t attract enough attention the first time?
Vice President Biden comes off as naive and foolish, and Obama himself is criticized for coming late to the negotiations as well as botching them. It seems to me that the situation on the ground had already been thoroughly botched by the Bush Administration beyond the point of the rescue of the so-called American interests.
The article is written mostly from the military point of view. The military never wanted to leave Iraq, even under George W. The military never wants to give up on an operation, even when there is no choice as in Vietnam. It dragged its feet in Iraq, and now it’s dragging its feet again in Afghanistan.
George & Co. had already made such a mess of things by the time Obama arrived in office that there was not much that could be done to create that chimera of the “balanced, stable democracy”. It was the American post colonial policy of divide and conquer under the Provisional Authority that set the stage for all the struggles that followed, including the civil war and Maliki’s slide toward authoritarian rule. The American government never learned much about Iraqis and Iraq all the time they were present in the country. They only saw their own point of view, their wants, their needs. No one ever asked the Iraqis what they wanted until the elections were forced on them in 2005, and then the arrangements were pretty much rigged to favor the Shia continuing the sectarian divide. The Bush administration was never able to get Maliki to agree to leaving some soldiers in Iraq because it would have had to go through parliament which wanted all Americans out of Iraq. What influence the Americans had was pretty much gone by the time the Bush administration was gone and Obama came in.
To attempt to blame Obama for the mess we left in Iraq is to have some kind of political agenda that ignores history and the present facts on the ground. There was no way they were going to undo what George & Co. had created. It will take time and a lot of hard work on the part of the Iraqis to come out of the chaos that followed the invasion. We here at home should be extremely wary of those who think our military can do everything. They can’t, as we have found to our sorrow in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
A more accurate analysis can be found in Michael Schwartz’s “War without End: The Iraq War in Context”. Just because it’s a political season doesn’t mean that newspaper articles should be irresponsible.