Declaring victory and going home

We’ll be out of Iraq by Christmas.  So says the president.  The earlier plan was to withdraw nearly all of the troops but to leave behind a contingent to help keep the peace.  But the Iraqi government did not agree to that.  So the only American troops to remain in Iraq will be  couple hundred Marines to guard the embassy and some trainers, something lots of countries have.  It sounds like, after nine years, the war will really be over.

From the Washington Post:

President Obama will withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of the year, ending a long war that deeply divided the country over its origins and the American lives it consumed.

In a Friday morning video conference, Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki agreed to a complete U.S. military departure that will fulfill a promise important to Obama’s reelection effort. The decision drew sharp criticism from his Republican rivals, as well as expressions of relieved support from those who believe it is time for the United States to conclude a war Obama once called “dumb.”

Speaking from the White House, President Obama says, “After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over.”

Speaking from the White House, President Obama says, “After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over.”

For months, U.S. and Iraqi officials had been negotiating the terms of an accord that would have kept several thousand U.S. troops in Iraq for special operations and training beyond the year-end deadline set by the George W. Bush administration.

But Obama and Maliki, who have never developed much personal chemistry, failed to reach agreement on the legal status of U.S. troops who would stay in Iraq beyond Dec. 31. As a result, only a contingent of fewer than 200 Marines assigned to help protect the large U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad will remain, along with a small number of other personnel to provide training related to new military sales and other tasks.

“The rest of our troops in Iraq will come home,” Obama said Friday at the White House, adding that they will “be home for the holidays.”

via All U.S. troops to leave Iraq by the end of 2011 – The Washington Post.

Will we have a big ticker-tape celebration to welcome our troops home and celebrate our victory?  Or is this another Vietnam moment?  Will this boost President Obama’s popularity?  What do you think will happen in Iraq once we’re gone?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Spaulding

    This is a cynical ploy for Obama with his falling approval to suck up to his voting base. It will be another Vietnam experience. The insurgents will take over and turn it into a state like Iran.

  • Spaulding

    This is a cynical ploy for Obama with his falling approval to suck up to his voting base. It will be another Vietnam experience. The insurgents will take over and turn it into a state like Iran.

  • Kirk

    @Spaulding

    Except that this time table was put into place in August of 2008, while Bush was still in office. Nice try, though!

    http://www.nsnetwork.org/node/947

  • Kirk

    @Spaulding

    Except that this time table was put into place in August of 2008, while Bush was still in office. Nice try, though!

    http://www.nsnetwork.org/node/947

  • Cincinnatus

    Yes, as Kirk notes, this was a Bush Administration plan all along. More confirmation that George W. Obama currently occupies the White House.

    Without qualification, I am glad we are leaving Iraq–far too late for my tastes. But I suspect that the place will fall apart post-haste. Maybe it will not, but Saddam Hussein’s virtue was in maintaining order for a collection of mutually antagonistic ethno-religious groups who happened to share the same national borders artificially imposed by Britain. Now, Shiites who sympathize with Iran, Sunni who are often oppressed or excluded by the Shiites, and Kurds oppressed by everyone, are trying to form a constitutional democracy. Yeah right. Groups who feel existentially threatened by one another are not amenable to the channeling their hatreds through the peaceful mechanisms of deliberative democracy, especially when none of them have had any practice whatsoever with this form of governance.

  • Cincinnatus

    Yes, as Kirk notes, this was a Bush Administration plan all along. More confirmation that George W. Obama currently occupies the White House.

    Without qualification, I am glad we are leaving Iraq–far too late for my tastes. But I suspect that the place will fall apart post-haste. Maybe it will not, but Saddam Hussein’s virtue was in maintaining order for a collection of mutually antagonistic ethno-religious groups who happened to share the same national borders artificially imposed by Britain. Now, Shiites who sympathize with Iran, Sunni who are often oppressed or excluded by the Shiites, and Kurds oppressed by everyone, are trying to form a constitutional democracy. Yeah right. Groups who feel existentially threatened by one another are not amenable to the channeling their hatreds through the peaceful mechanisms of deliberative democracy, especially when none of them have had any practice whatsoever with this form of governance.

  • michael henry

    1. No, there will be MSM soundbites, and probably protesters.
    2. It will be a slow motion ’75 Saigon as foreigners take the last donkey out.
    3. No, no matter what he does half the country will hate him and half will love him.
    4. What will happen in Iraq will be a slow starting multi-pronged civil war. Since the US always advertises before everything it does, those involved will know exactly when no more drones are coming.

  • michael henry

    1. No, there will be MSM soundbites, and probably protesters.
    2. It will be a slow motion ’75 Saigon as foreigners take the last donkey out.
    3. No, no matter what he does half the country will hate him and half will love him.
    4. What will happen in Iraq will be a slow starting multi-pronged civil war. Since the US always advertises before everything it does, those involved will know exactly when no more drones are coming.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    This was not “Bush’s” plan. Bush’s plan was to leave several thousand troops in Iraq. This was a smart plan. It would mean that we have a strategic hold on the whole region, to provide the iron fist needed for velvet gloved diplomacy. But Obama is an idiot, and has let it all slip away. Of course, he’ll try to spin it as a foreign policy victory, but as the article says, he failed in his negotiations because he couldn’t develop chemistry with Maliki. It’s a failure, and one with potentially great repercussions.
    So my guess is Spaulding will be correct, and we will be lucky if we don’t have to fight another bloody war to retake the place and stabilize it again. Assanine.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    This was not “Bush’s” plan. Bush’s plan was to leave several thousand troops in Iraq. This was a smart plan. It would mean that we have a strategic hold on the whole region, to provide the iron fist needed for velvet gloved diplomacy. But Obama is an idiot, and has let it all slip away. Of course, he’ll try to spin it as a foreign policy victory, but as the article says, he failed in his negotiations because he couldn’t develop chemistry with Maliki. It’s a failure, and one with potentially great repercussions.
    So my guess is Spaulding will be correct, and we will be lucky if we don’t have to fight another bloody war to retake the place and stabilize it again. Assanine.

  • Jerry

    In spite of any rhetoric otherwise, you can see a pattern. Where the decisions concern Iran, all of the President’s decisions in world affairs are coming down on the side of Iran. He’s using his power to pick the winners and losers.

  • Jerry

    In spite of any rhetoric otherwise, you can see a pattern. Where the decisions concern Iran, all of the President’s decisions in world affairs are coming down on the side of Iran. He’s using his power to pick the winners and losers.

  • Kirk

    @Bror

    Except that that relied on Iraqi consent, which neither Bush nor Obama was able to negotiate. The plan was always that the Iraqi parliament would have to allow our troops to stay in country, but that never came to pass.

    @Jerry

    That’s because he’s a secret Muslim. And apparently a secret Iranian, too.

  • Kirk

    @Bror

    Except that that relied on Iraqi consent, which neither Bush nor Obama was able to negotiate. The plan was always that the Iraqi parliament would have to allow our troops to stay in country, but that never came to pass.

    @Jerry

    That’s because he’s a secret Muslim. And apparently a secret Iranian, too.

  • Cincinnatus

    Bror,

    First, the Iraqis do not want us there. At all. We do not have their permission to be there after 2012. Bush’s plan recognized this fact, so yes: this is Bush’s plan; Obama was going to maintain several thousand troops there as well, as I understand it, had the Iraqi Parliament consented. Thank God they didn’t. Now that we’ve revealed to them the wonders of constitutional democracy and massive defense budgets, can we respect their sovereign desires yet?

    Second, and perhaps more importantly, why should we have any interest whatsoever in “retaking the place” and “stabilizing it again”? Oil, I suppose. But in the meantime, our blinkered perception that we are responsible for the stability and democracy of every nation on the planet is a tremendous ideological problem. It was a bad decision to be there in the first place: Saddam Hussein maintained order and usually kept the oil flowing, except, like Qaddafi, when he was upset. Now we need to lie in the bed we’ve made for ourselves.

    And yes, I predict civil war. But who cares? It’s not my problem if they can’t get along with each other.

  • Cincinnatus

    Bror,

    First, the Iraqis do not want us there. At all. We do not have their permission to be there after 2012. Bush’s plan recognized this fact, so yes: this is Bush’s plan; Obama was going to maintain several thousand troops there as well, as I understand it, had the Iraqi Parliament consented. Thank God they didn’t. Now that we’ve revealed to them the wonders of constitutional democracy and massive defense budgets, can we respect their sovereign desires yet?

    Second, and perhaps more importantly, why should we have any interest whatsoever in “retaking the place” and “stabilizing it again”? Oil, I suppose. But in the meantime, our blinkered perception that we are responsible for the stability and democracy of every nation on the planet is a tremendous ideological problem. It was a bad decision to be there in the first place: Saddam Hussein maintained order and usually kept the oil flowing, except, like Qaddafi, when he was upset. Now we need to lie in the bed we’ve made for ourselves.

    And yes, I predict civil war. But who cares? It’s not my problem if they can’t get along with each other.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Cincinnatus,
    If they can’t get along with each other, it will quickly become our problem. I mean look at all those other places we have left as an anarchist waste land and how they have turned out for us in the long run, Somalia and Afghanistan.
    And it has to do with more than just oil, though that plays a part. But then I’m sure your car is powered by a squirrel.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Cincinnatus,
    If they can’t get along with each other, it will quickly become our problem. I mean look at all those other places we have left as an anarchist waste land and how they have turned out for us in the long run, Somalia and Afghanistan.
    And it has to do with more than just oil, though that plays a part. But then I’m sure your car is powered by a squirrel.

  • Cincinnatus

    Ah yes, but you know that we are the ones who enabled the Afghani radicals, the Mogadishu pirates, and, now, the warring clans of Iraq, right? Not to mention Egypt, Iran, and Libya are, in general, our fault. Things would have been better if we had stayed out of all those nations in the first place.

  • Cincinnatus

    Ah yes, but you know that we are the ones who enabled the Afghani radicals, the Mogadishu pirates, and, now, the warring clans of Iraq, right? Not to mention Egypt, Iran, and Libya are, in general, our fault. Things would have been better if we had stayed out of all those nations in the first place.

  • http://gslcnm.com Pastor Spomer

    It puzzles me why there is so little said about how the Christian Church has been almost destroyed in Iraq while we’ve been there. I was originally in favor of both wars, thinking that they would bring a measure of freedom to Afghanistan and Iraq, but both places are worse now than they were before.

    These wars have taught me two things. The problem with Islam exists on the ground level. And the ruling class in America, both left and right, has no interest or capacity to protect the Church. Ironic, considering how George Bush so wore his faith on his sleeve, that so many Christian would die as a result of his decisions.

  • http://gslcnm.com Pastor Spomer

    It puzzles me why there is so little said about how the Christian Church has been almost destroyed in Iraq while we’ve been there. I was originally in favor of both wars, thinking that they would bring a measure of freedom to Afghanistan and Iraq, but both places are worse now than they were before.

    These wars have taught me two things. The problem with Islam exists on the ground level. And the ruling class in America, both left and right, has no interest or capacity to protect the Church. Ironic, considering how George Bush so wore his faith on his sleeve, that so many Christian would die as a result of his decisions.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I’m generally with Kirk and Cincinnatus here.

    Bror (@9), there’s a difference between a civil war and an “anarchist waste land”. I mean, how many civil or internecine wars have we seen in Europe in, oh, the past century? And how many of those resulted in anarchist wastelands?

    Absent a strong external force or a totalitarian ruler, Iraq will probably devolve into multiple states. But what is the suggested solution: stay there forever? “You guys have to learn to get along inside your fictitious borders, because we say so.”

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I’m generally with Kirk and Cincinnatus here.

    Bror (@9), there’s a difference between a civil war and an “anarchist waste land”. I mean, how many civil or internecine wars have we seen in Europe in, oh, the past century? And how many of those resulted in anarchist wastelands?

    Absent a strong external force or a totalitarian ruler, Iraq will probably devolve into multiple states. But what is the suggested solution: stay there forever? “You guys have to learn to get along inside your fictitious borders, because we say so.”

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    tODD,
    Europe is not the Middle East.
    And I don’t know about forever, but indefinitely is something that I can live with.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    tODD,
    Europe is not the Middle East.
    And I don’t know about forever, but indefinitely is something that I can live with.

  • fws

    Bror @ 13

    The USA has limited resource. we should use them more stragetically. and it is stupid for Obama to be cutting back on the State Department budget.. as just one example.

  • fws

    Bror @ 13

    The USA has limited resource. we should use them more stragetically. and it is stupid for Obama to be cutting back on the State Department budget.. as just one example.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I was originally in favor of both wars, thinking that they would bring a measure of freedom to Afghanistan and Iraq, but both places are worse now than they were before.”

    After our war with Britain we were free to do what we wanted. So, we separated from Britain. If these folks do get freedom, they will exercise their will, not our will.

    Others have suggested that the whole point of cobbling together a place like Iraq was that the factions could not unite to overthrow any regime and the British, or a dictator could play one faction off the others to stay in power. Absent such a regime, what is there nothing holding them together, the oil industry?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I was originally in favor of both wars, thinking that they would bring a measure of freedom to Afghanistan and Iraq, but both places are worse now than they were before.”

    After our war with Britain we were free to do what we wanted. So, we separated from Britain. If these folks do get freedom, they will exercise their will, not our will.

    Others have suggested that the whole point of cobbling together a place like Iraq was that the factions could not unite to overthrow any regime and the British, or a dictator could play one faction off the others to stay in power. Absent such a regime, what is there nothing holding them together, the oil industry?

  • http://carolmsblog.blogspot.com/ C-Christian Soldier

    Iraq should pay us (lots of oil there) big time for ridding them of their dictator-saying that- a few troops there would be good–as long as they can shed the PC– RoEs with which they have been hampered….
    BTW-
    let’s get our troops out of German-Japan-etc etc (after 60 + years it is time) and let those countries pay for their own military —
    Carol-CS

  • http://carolmsblog.blogspot.com/ C-Christian Soldier

    Iraq should pay us (lots of oil there) big time for ridding them of their dictator-saying that- a few troops there would be good–as long as they can shed the PC– RoEs with which they have been hampered….
    BTW-
    let’s get our troops out of German-Japan-etc etc (after 60 + years it is time) and let those countries pay for their own military —
    Carol-CS

  • Bob

    It’s Obama’s fault.

  • Bob

    It’s Obama’s fault.

  • Kirk

    @16

    It sounds like someone has been listening to a little too much Michele Bachmann foreign policy. As if the destruction of their country and the influx of terrorism wasn’t enough of a cost to Iraqi’s for their “freedom.” It baffles me that anyone would think that a nation that we used to shield ourselves from terrorism owes us anything.

  • Kirk

    @16

    It sounds like someone has been listening to a little too much Michele Bachmann foreign policy. As if the destruction of their country and the influx of terrorism wasn’t enough of a cost to Iraqi’s for their “freedom.” It baffles me that anyone would think that a nation that we used to shield ourselves from terrorism owes us anything.

  • Tom Hering

    Pull them all out. We’re going to need every last one of our troops when our unacknowledged war with Pakistan escalates – step by step by step – into an acknowledged war with Pakistan, and then escalates again when Afghanistan joins with Pakistan against us.

    We’ll never learn.

  • Tom Hering

    Pull them all out. We’re going to need every last one of our troops when our unacknowledged war with Pakistan escalates – step by step by step – into an acknowledged war with Pakistan, and then escalates again when Afghanistan joins with Pakistan against us.

    We’ll never learn.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    FW,
    Limited resources, sure. But that is exactly why it doesn’t make sense to pull out now. It is exactly why it makes sense to stay put and protect hard won territory.
    See, if you had read my first post, you would see that I expect we’ll end up back in there before lone, and then we will have to use more of our limited resources to take back land we should be occupying anyway.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    FW,
    Limited resources, sure. But that is exactly why it doesn’t make sense to pull out now. It is exactly why it makes sense to stay put and protect hard won territory.
    See, if you had read my first post, you would see that I expect we’ll end up back in there before lone, and then we will have to use more of our limited resources to take back land we should be occupying anyway.

  • Cincinnatus

    Well, at least Bror@20 is honest about America’s imperial endeavors: remaining “indefinitely,” “hard-won territory,” etc.

  • Cincinnatus

    Well, at least Bror@20 is honest about America’s imperial endeavors: remaining “indefinitely,” “hard-won territory,” etc.

  • kerner

    Iraq is better off than it was. Whether it will stay that way remains to be seen. After WWI the victorious Allies created 3 multicultural nations that I am aware of: Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Iraq. Iraq is the only one still surviving.

    Czechoslovakia dissolved peacefully, but it really only lasted 20 years before being overrun by the Germans, and then the Russians, and operated as a virtual colony of each. The Czech Republic and Slovakia only exist today as independent nations because NATO makes it so. But at least the Czechs and Slovaks parted ways without bloodshed.

    The breakup of Yugoslavia was bloody and painful. The only thing keeping the various former components from fighting is, again, NATO. We help out there because the Europeans want a stable Balkan peninsula, and we want a stable Europe.

    The various Iraqi factions will stay together as long as their loosely federal system is in their mutual interest. Right now, mutual defense is one reason to stay together. All three parties have enemies that will be more easily defended against and problems that are more easily solved if they stay together and get along. It will be easier for them to maintain an alliance with us if they remain united, and there is something to be gained by maintaining a good relationship with us.

    Even if Iraq dissolves into three countries, the only thing they really have to fight over now is their oil. If each group gets a piece of that action, they could each leave the others without excessive bloodshed. The only purpose in US troops remaining in Iraq anymore would be to help the Iraqi elected government maintain stable domestic tranquility and foreign relations. But, the Iraqis seem to think that they’ve “got this” now. They don’t think they need us anymore, so we will now test that theory empirically.

    I am less worried about Iran than many here, because we still have air power that could be deployed to prevent or repel a ground invasion from Iran. That is, if we actually devised a strategy to do either.

    The one multi-cultural nation that the USA created that’s still around is the Philippines. They decided that they didn’t need our military too, and they still have their seperatist terrorists, but they are still a nation. On the other hand, we were there a lot longer.

    I don’t know what we think we are doing in Afghanistan anymore, unless it is keeping the place from becoming a hideout for Islamist terrorists. We may actually be doing that, but at excessive cost, with the result being that the terrorists are simply hiding out somewhere else.

    For those who worry about the Church in the middle east, just remember, the size and vitality of the Church in Palestine/Israel is a shell of what it was in 1946. Nobody seems very interested in that, either.

    Oh, and C-CS is right about one thing. I see absolutely no reason for a large military presence in Germany, and it wouldn’t hurt for Japan and Korea to take up some of their own military slack, either.

    And this may not be all Obama’s fault, but that doesn’t mean he has the first clue about what the benefits of what we have won might be, or how to preserve them.

  • kerner

    Iraq is better off than it was. Whether it will stay that way remains to be seen. After WWI the victorious Allies created 3 multicultural nations that I am aware of: Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Iraq. Iraq is the only one still surviving.

    Czechoslovakia dissolved peacefully, but it really only lasted 20 years before being overrun by the Germans, and then the Russians, and operated as a virtual colony of each. The Czech Republic and Slovakia only exist today as independent nations because NATO makes it so. But at least the Czechs and Slovaks parted ways without bloodshed.

    The breakup of Yugoslavia was bloody and painful. The only thing keeping the various former components from fighting is, again, NATO. We help out there because the Europeans want a stable Balkan peninsula, and we want a stable Europe.

    The various Iraqi factions will stay together as long as their loosely federal system is in their mutual interest. Right now, mutual defense is one reason to stay together. All three parties have enemies that will be more easily defended against and problems that are more easily solved if they stay together and get along. It will be easier for them to maintain an alliance with us if they remain united, and there is something to be gained by maintaining a good relationship with us.

    Even if Iraq dissolves into three countries, the only thing they really have to fight over now is their oil. If each group gets a piece of that action, they could each leave the others without excessive bloodshed. The only purpose in US troops remaining in Iraq anymore would be to help the Iraqi elected government maintain stable domestic tranquility and foreign relations. But, the Iraqis seem to think that they’ve “got this” now. They don’t think they need us anymore, so we will now test that theory empirically.

    I am less worried about Iran than many here, because we still have air power that could be deployed to prevent or repel a ground invasion from Iran. That is, if we actually devised a strategy to do either.

    The one multi-cultural nation that the USA created that’s still around is the Philippines. They decided that they didn’t need our military too, and they still have their seperatist terrorists, but they are still a nation. On the other hand, we were there a lot longer.

    I don’t know what we think we are doing in Afghanistan anymore, unless it is keeping the place from becoming a hideout for Islamist terrorists. We may actually be doing that, but at excessive cost, with the result being that the terrorists are simply hiding out somewhere else.

    For those who worry about the Church in the middle east, just remember, the size and vitality of the Church in Palestine/Israel is a shell of what it was in 1946. Nobody seems very interested in that, either.

    Oh, and C-CS is right about one thing. I see absolutely no reason for a large military presence in Germany, and it wouldn’t hurt for Japan and Korea to take up some of their own military slack, either.

    And this may not be all Obama’s fault, but that doesn’t mean he has the first clue about what the benefits of what we have won might be, or how to preserve them.

  • SKPeterson

    I don’t understand the rationale for continuing occupation, Bror. Your logic is akin to the economic concept of sunk costs, or the notion of spending good money after bad. Walk away. We spent money we didn’t have to spend, fighting a war we didn’t need to fight. Any talk of territorial gains or having to stay in order to prevent us from going back is missing the point.

    I might support us “accidentally” leaving large amounts of small weapons, ammunition and medical supplies with the Assyrians/Chaldeans before we leave. And we should probably start providing arms and ammunition to the Copts. I don’t believe we need to interfere, but we can support people fighting for their own rights and property. It wouldn’t hurt to be ready to do the same for the Syrians.

  • SKPeterson

    I don’t understand the rationale for continuing occupation, Bror. Your logic is akin to the economic concept of sunk costs, or the notion of spending good money after bad. Walk away. We spent money we didn’t have to spend, fighting a war we didn’t need to fight. Any talk of territorial gains or having to stay in order to prevent us from going back is missing the point.

    I might support us “accidentally” leaving large amounts of small weapons, ammunition and medical supplies with the Assyrians/Chaldeans before we leave. And we should probably start providing arms and ammunition to the Copts. I don’t believe we need to interfere, but we can support people fighting for their own rights and property. It wouldn’t hurt to be ready to do the same for the Syrians.

  • kerner

    Just because we didn’t, strictly speaking, need to do what we did in Iraq doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good idea (or at least a better idea than the alternatives at the time).

    And preserving what we, and the Iraqis, have gotten out of doing it ought not be treated lightly. That doesn’t mean we need to be there much longer, but I see no point to gratuitously throwing away any gains we might have realized.

  • kerner

    Just because we didn’t, strictly speaking, need to do what we did in Iraq doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good idea (or at least a better idea than the alternatives at the time).

    And preserving what we, and the Iraqis, have gotten out of doing it ought not be treated lightly. That doesn’t mean we need to be there much longer, but I see no point to gratuitously throwing away any gains we might have realized.

  • Cincinnatus

    Wait, kerner, your last comment is well-nigh self-refuting: in the world of foreign policy and diplomacy, if we need not do it, we ought not do it, for reasons both practical and principled.

    Meanwhile, what are these “gains” of which you speak? In place of a brutal but stable authoritarian regime, we installed a corrupt democracy that many (most?) Iraqis don’t want, and aren’t going to tolerate when we leave.

  • Cincinnatus

    Wait, kerner, your last comment is well-nigh self-refuting: in the world of foreign policy and diplomacy, if we need not do it, we ought not do it, for reasons both practical and principled.

    Meanwhile, what are these “gains” of which you speak? In place of a brutal but stable authoritarian regime, we installed a corrupt democracy that many (most?) Iraqis don’t want, and aren’t going to tolerate when we leave.

  • kerner

    Cin:

    if we need not do it, we ought not do it, for reasons both practical and principled.

    That’s just silly.

    We didn’t need to fight the Civil War. We could have let the southern states go. But in my opinion, the results of not fighting it would have been comparitively negative, for them and for us.

    Name anything the USA has done that you approve of, and I’ll bet you we didn’t need to do it, in the sense that there were alternatives that would not have resulted in the destruction of the republic. That’s the way almost all of our decisions are. There is almost always some alternative. It doesn’t mean the alternative we choose is bad just because there are, in fact alternatives.

  • kerner

    Cin:

    if we need not do it, we ought not do it, for reasons both practical and principled.

    That’s just silly.

    We didn’t need to fight the Civil War. We could have let the southern states go. But in my opinion, the results of not fighting it would have been comparitively negative, for them and for us.

    Name anything the USA has done that you approve of, and I’ll bet you we didn’t need to do it, in the sense that there were alternatives that would not have resulted in the destruction of the republic. That’s the way almost all of our decisions are. There is almost always some alternative. It doesn’t mean the alternative we choose is bad just because there are, in fact alternatives.

  • Cincinnatus

    kerner@26: Nonsense. I don’t approve of many foreign policy decision the United States has made in the last 150+ years. I submit to you that these decisions, of which I disapprove, are half the reason (at least!) we find ourselves in the current predicament. Indeed, you are correct in noting that political and diplomatic choices are almost always an accommodation to evil, a choice between least objectionable alternatives. But name any decision we made of which you approve and I’ll demonstrate that we not only “didn’t need to do it,” but shouldn’t have either due to better alternatives. We didn’t need to fight WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Iraq I, Iraq II, etc. ad infinitum. America, if not “the world,” would have been better off if we hadn’t.

    /and don’t get me started on the Civil War. I’m a confederate :-P

  • Cincinnatus

    kerner@26: Nonsense. I don’t approve of many foreign policy decision the United States has made in the last 150+ years. I submit to you that these decisions, of which I disapprove, are half the reason (at least!) we find ourselves in the current predicament. Indeed, you are correct in noting that political and diplomatic choices are almost always an accommodation to evil, a choice between least objectionable alternatives. But name any decision we made of which you approve and I’ll demonstrate that we not only “didn’t need to do it,” but shouldn’t have either due to better alternatives. We didn’t need to fight WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Iraq I, Iraq II, etc. ad infinitum. America, if not “the world,” would have been better off if we hadn’t.

    /and don’t get me started on the Civil War. I’m a confederate :-P

  • helen

    If you are a Confederate, Cincinnatus, it’s the “War of Northern Agression”. ;)

  • helen

    If you are a Confederate, Cincinnatus, it’s the “War of Northern Agression”. ;)

  • Cincinnatus

    The “War of Northern Arrogance,” you mean.

  • Cincinnatus

    The “War of Northern Arrogance,” you mean.

  • helen

    ;) That one I hadn’t heard yet!

  • helen

    ;) That one I hadn’t heard yet!

  • kerner

    Ha! I’m sure you’re a confederate, but the biggest favor the Unionists ever did Confederates was defeating them in the civil war. Had it not been so, the most fortunate southern states would be today like South Africa is now. The least fortunate would be like Haiti is now. If you think about it, I’m sure you’ll be suitably grateful.

    Arrogance? What arrogance? :)

    But seriously, those are real possibilities. And had the south won, this continent could have been like Europe: divided into numerous petty states always fighting among themselves, until a true empire came along and subdued them. Or they could have ended up like South America, divided between Marxist dictatorships and Fascist dictatorships, with no republic to look to with any sense of hope, and all with populations mostly living in poverty under the domination of powerful elites.

    The United States has been blessed in a number of ways, but none of it would be true had we opted to remain small and weak. The only reason some small and weak nations are independent today is because larger, principled nations protect them. Do you honestly think that the Czech Republic would remain independent very long if Nato weren’t protecting it?

    I may sound like this big aggressive neo-con whenever we have these discussions, but in reality I am not as enthused about constantly adventuring throughout the world as you may think. But I just think your apparent position that the key to a culture maintaining its principles and integrity being a dedication to remaining small and weak is hopelessly naive. Prosperous, but small and weak, nations are almost always targets for the large and greedy, and are soon dominated by them.

  • kerner

    Ha! I’m sure you’re a confederate, but the biggest favor the Unionists ever did Confederates was defeating them in the civil war. Had it not been so, the most fortunate southern states would be today like South Africa is now. The least fortunate would be like Haiti is now. If you think about it, I’m sure you’ll be suitably grateful.

    Arrogance? What arrogance? :)

    But seriously, those are real possibilities. And had the south won, this continent could have been like Europe: divided into numerous petty states always fighting among themselves, until a true empire came along and subdued them. Or they could have ended up like South America, divided between Marxist dictatorships and Fascist dictatorships, with no republic to look to with any sense of hope, and all with populations mostly living in poverty under the domination of powerful elites.

    The United States has been blessed in a number of ways, but none of it would be true had we opted to remain small and weak. The only reason some small and weak nations are independent today is because larger, principled nations protect them. Do you honestly think that the Czech Republic would remain independent very long if Nato weren’t protecting it?

    I may sound like this big aggressive neo-con whenever we have these discussions, but in reality I am not as enthused about constantly adventuring throughout the world as you may think. But I just think your apparent position that the key to a culture maintaining its principles and integrity being a dedication to remaining small and weak is hopelessly naive. Prosperous, but small and weak, nations are almost always targets for the large and greedy, and are soon dominated by them.

  • fws

    Kerner and Cinn

    I am gonna make popcorn and just read. This is a great discussion.

  • fws

    Kerner and Cinn

    I am gonna make popcorn and just read. This is a great discussion.

  • steve

    I look forward to seeing a free and independent Kurdish state. If that occurs, and providing we have enough fortitude to recognize them, it may be the one lasting good to come of this whole mess.

  • steve

    I look forward to seeing a free and independent Kurdish state. If that occurs, and providing we have enough fortitude to recognize them, it may be the one lasting good to come of this whole mess.

  • Jonathan

    It is all good for the politicians on both sides to be able to say that the US is out. But that is not what will happen, of course.

    The Iraqis know they can’t hold this thing together without the US. The Saudis and Kuwaitis don’t want this mess in their backyard either. The US pol-mils also know that we can’t just leave in toto.

    So, what will happen, very quietly, after the holidays and the celebrations on both sides, is that the US contingent in Iraq will steadily re-grow as we negotiate a military presence somewhat like what we have had in Britain and Germany since the Cold War, but obviously on a different scale.

    You can bet that that’s the part of the mano-a-mano discussions between the two countries’ political leaders that you didn’t hear about in the big announcement.

    For now, though, we need a VI-Day, or a VA-Day if you are Iraqi. That’s all the big announcement is.

  • Jonathan

    It is all good for the politicians on both sides to be able to say that the US is out. But that is not what will happen, of course.

    The Iraqis know they can’t hold this thing together without the US. The Saudis and Kuwaitis don’t want this mess in their backyard either. The US pol-mils also know that we can’t just leave in toto.

    So, what will happen, very quietly, after the holidays and the celebrations on both sides, is that the US contingent in Iraq will steadily re-grow as we negotiate a military presence somewhat like what we have had in Britain and Germany since the Cold War, but obviously on a different scale.

    You can bet that that’s the part of the mano-a-mano discussions between the two countries’ political leaders that you didn’t hear about in the big announcement.

    For now, though, we need a VI-Day, or a VA-Day if you are Iraqi. That’s all the big announcement is.

  • kerner

    Jonathan:

    I think you’re right. Excellent insight! It is very important to remember that Obama is the same president who said Guantanamo Bay would be closed by 2009.
    For Iraq, we’ll leave…but not leave.

  • kerner

    Jonathan:

    I think you’re right. Excellent insight! It is very important to remember that Obama is the same president who said Guantanamo Bay would be closed by 2009.
    For Iraq, we’ll leave…but not leave.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    There’s kind of a key difference between Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, though, right …?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    There’s kind of a key difference between Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, though, right …?

  • kerner

    tODD:

    Of course there is. But the point is that, just because Obama says “x” will happen by time “y”, there is no reason to believe that “x” means what you think it does, nor is there any reason to believe that it will occur by time “y”.

  • kerner

    tODD:

    Of course there is. But the point is that, just because Obama says “x” will happen by time “y”, there is no reason to believe that “x” means what you think it does, nor is there any reason to believe that it will occur by time “y”.

  • fws

    KERNER @ 37

    Don’t you suppose Kerner that these are, in charity, two kinda sorta different situations? Obama opened his mouth and committed to closing Guantanamo before he was president long enough to know the complications of that.

    He has been president for a while now, I think , but am not certain, that he won’t follow the same pattern in Iraq, especially since we didnt get them to agree to let us keep a reserve of troops in place. That sovreignty thangy….

  • fws

    KERNER @ 37

    Don’t you suppose Kerner that these are, in charity, two kinda sorta different situations? Obama opened his mouth and committed to closing Guantanamo before he was president long enough to know the complications of that.

    He has been president for a while now, I think , but am not certain, that he won’t follow the same pattern in Iraq, especially since we didnt get them to agree to let us keep a reserve of troops in place. That sovreignty thangy….

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kerner (@35), perhaps you didn’t get my point.

    Guantanamo is leased by us. We control it completely. The choice to keep the prison there open or closed is entirely up to Obama.

    That is not the case in Iraq. Their government refuses to grant our troops immunity. This is, given our demands, the same as asking them all to leave. We do not control the Iraqi government. The decision to stay there would be a serious diplomatic issue.

    Also, please note that Obama actually wanted to keep “several thousand” troops in Iraq beyond the deadline that, again, Bush set. It was his preference to keep troops there. But the Iraqis would not let us keep our troops there on our terms.

    Your cynical read here makes no sense. It seems to assume that Obama is the only decision-maker here (he’s not), and that he was secretly trying to keep our troops in Iraq (it’s not a secret; but the negotiations failed).

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kerner (@35), perhaps you didn’t get my point.

    Guantanamo is leased by us. We control it completely. The choice to keep the prison there open or closed is entirely up to Obama.

    That is not the case in Iraq. Their government refuses to grant our troops immunity. This is, given our demands, the same as asking them all to leave. We do not control the Iraqi government. The decision to stay there would be a serious diplomatic issue.

    Also, please note that Obama actually wanted to keep “several thousand” troops in Iraq beyond the deadline that, again, Bush set. It was his preference to keep troops there. But the Iraqis would not let us keep our troops there on our terms.

    Your cynical read here makes no sense. It seems to assume that Obama is the only decision-maker here (he’s not), and that he was secretly trying to keep our troops in Iraq (it’s not a secret; but the negotiations failed).

  • kerner

    Maybe we’re overthinking this. And maybe I’m overstating what I meant. I’m trying to agree with Jonathan’s analysis to the effect that “leaving” doesn’t necessarily mean leaving as we might commonly understand it.

    So, maybe Guantanamo is a bad analogy. OK guys, I bow to your valid criticisms of my poorly thought through remarks.

  • kerner

    Maybe we’re overthinking this. And maybe I’m overstating what I meant. I’m trying to agree with Jonathan’s analysis to the effect that “leaving” doesn’t necessarily mean leaving as we might commonly understand it.

    So, maybe Guantanamo is a bad analogy. OK guys, I bow to your valid criticisms of my poorly thought through remarks.

  • Jonathan

    It’s actually a SOFA that we want, and not necessarily one with complete “immunity” for our troops at that. I think we would be willing to accept less than complete immunity, something more similar to the NATO SOFA protections, perhaps.

    But, up front, the Iraqis don’t want to give us a SOFA, period. That is; they want us all out. That’s how it’s supposed to play in Sadr City and points south and west anyway. How it is in reality (that we’re not hearing about in the media announcement) is that their politicians (particularly the Sunnis, fearing paybacks) are asking how fast we can get the Foreign Military Sales and Training spun up and going in 2012, and so they will quietly negotiate a SOFA and we’ll keep some (parts of) key bases from which to conduct our FMS and training. It’s not an Obama thing; any Administration dealing with the Iraqis would face this.

  • Jonathan

    It’s actually a SOFA that we want, and not necessarily one with complete “immunity” for our troops at that. I think we would be willing to accept less than complete immunity, something more similar to the NATO SOFA protections, perhaps.

    But, up front, the Iraqis don’t want to give us a SOFA, period. That is; they want us all out. That’s how it’s supposed to play in Sadr City and points south and west anyway. How it is in reality (that we’re not hearing about in the media announcement) is that their politicians (particularly the Sunnis, fearing paybacks) are asking how fast we can get the Foreign Military Sales and Training spun up and going in 2012, and so they will quietly negotiate a SOFA and we’ll keep some (parts of) key bases from which to conduct our FMS and training. It’s not an Obama thing; any Administration dealing with the Iraqis would face this.

  • kerner

    Jonathan:

    This is very interesting. How do you know all this?

  • kerner

    Jonathan:

    This is very interesting. How do you know all this?


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