Professor Kori Schake at West Point has a devastating piece on President Obama’s declaration of “victory” in Iraq. As she points out, much of the heavy lifting was done by President Bush, not by Obama. And since he has become Commander-in-Chief, things have become worse, not better. She writes:
On President Obama’s watch, the Maliki government struck hundreds of opposition Parliamentary candidates off the ballot; violated the Iraqi Constitution’s principle that the party gaining the most Parliamentary seats has the right to form a government; kept the country in a state of suspended animation without a government for seven months; refused a non-sectarian coalition choosing instead coalition with the virulently anti-American Muqtada al-Sadr; has not appointed either a minister of defense or a minister of the interior, preferring to hold those powers himself; declined to join in Arab League sanction of Syria’s government; looked the other way as Shi-ia militia emerged that, according to GEN Austen, the commander in Iraq, parallel Hezbollah in Lebanon; and now has arrested hundreds of Sunni “coup plotters.” Maliki has begun to resemble a character from the novels of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, banal in his ruthlessness.
Maliki has even claimed that the U.S. is to blame for Iranian influence in Iraq, explaining that Iran had justification for its actions — the “excuse was that the presence of U.S. troops on Iraqi soil…with it ends all thinking, calculations and possibilities for interference in Iraqi affairs under any other banner.” If Maliki actually believes that, it is both offensive and dangerously self-deceptive.
The Obama administration felt no need to counter the Iraqi prime minister’s statement; indeed, that would make news, and the only news the Obama administration wants about Iraq is “It’s Over!” The president’s consistent emphasis in talking about Iraq is that finally, the last American troops are coming home.
If no troops in Iraq is the metric for success, then President Obama has led us to success in the Iraq war. But if capitalizing on the gains won by our military to nurture an Iraq that is more than a Shi-ia autocracy leaning toward Iran, President Obama has merely conceded our political aims in order to get our troops out.