It is hard to know what to think of the administration’s announcement that we are leaving Iraq, since President Obama has said so many contradictory things, from ‘all troops out by March 2008’ to ‘staying on until the foundations of civil society are established and institutionalized.’ Neither happened. The U.S. military, which evolved in brilliant fashion to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, cannot be happy that in the midst of the usual contorted negotiations, we simply quit and bugged out.
The so-called Arab Spring may have been inspired by the removal of Saddam Hussein, and yet without a direct U.S. presence, most countries are perhaps more likely to follow the Iranian model: removal of the tyrant, establishment of a weak elected government, the hijacking of the revolution by self-proclaimed “moderate” Islamists, and ultimately, theocracy of the Khomeinist/Hezbollah/Hamas sort. Note that Iraq, almost alone, escaped Arab Spring mass demonstrations, largely because the U.S. had shepherded a constitutional government considered legitimate and stable enough to endure the almost nonstop efforts by both Iranian agents and al-Qaedist terrorists to overthrow it. So, will the postwar American presence in 2008–11 turn out to have been sufficient, given that Iraq is still not able to defend its borders and its democracy is deeply feared by Tehran? Time will tell, but we should worry about everything from the survival of Iraqi territorial integrity to preserving the near miracle of a booming Kurdistan.