The president's announcement on Friday that all U.S. troops would leave Iraq by the end of the year took many people by surprise, since both the White House and Pentagon had been repeatedly emphasizing that negotiations with Iraq were ongoing, that no decision had been made. In truth, the decision was made even before Barack Obama was president: he got elected campaigning that Iraq was the wrong war, not worth the lives and money.
He did what he said he was going to do. He set an end date for combat operations so that he could show "progress" before the midterm elections. Progress not toward consolidating our gains in Iraq, but toward being out of Iraq. Having appointed special envoys for every problem he considered important, there was no special envoy for Iraq, to help build fostering regional relationships and coordinate our policies. He appointed an ambassador who knew nothing about Iraq.
He allowed the political crisis to fester more than seven months after Iraq's parliamentary elections, declined to put our considerable leverage behind a coalition of national unity, instead stood mutely by as Nouri al-Maliki subverted the electoral law to form a government and then did so with the vehemently anti-American Muqtada al-Sadr. That was the point at which the United States actually left Iraq -- the withdrawal of troops is a lagging, not a leading indicator of the administration's indifference.
(photo credit: soonerpa)