‘Today, I have come to speak to you about how the war in Iraq will end.’
President Barack Obama laid out his definitive plan for the statement above. Obama’s plan is to have ‘combat forces’ leave Iraq by August 2010 and for the remaining ‘residual force’ to leave by the end of 2011. I watched the entire speech and was mainly satisfied with his planned withdrawal as he emphasized the need to engage with the country as a strong ally and praised the surge, though not in name of course, and our soldiers for their hard fought gains. Obama, who is looking more and more like the most realist president the US has had since Nixon, stayed away from the ‘democracy’ word, but did voice his support and hope for a ‘just, representative, and accountable’ Iraqi government.
He stuck to his campaign rhetoric and policy pronouncements that Iraq’s government needed to take responsibility for the country’s future and described how this cannot be done with a US troops on the ground. This is the theory that Iraq’s government will be forever stagnant if US troops allow it to be by letting them maintain the status quo without making real political progress. But this is where things can get tricky, as the surge proved almost the opposite of this. Now we all hope that the newfound stability and strength of the Iraqi government is ready to handle itself, by itself, but major questions remain.
I believe the surge worked not just because we had more troops to patrol the land, but because it was a tangible sign that the US was in for the long haul and you better base your political moves accordingly. In consequence, the Sunni’s of Anbar made a political deal with the US, attacked Al Qaeda, and just recently participated in the provincial elections. There has to be some concern that this timetable will cause the sectarian groups to begin to dig their trenches again, getting ready for the ‘real fight.’ I hope, upon hope that this is not the case, but I don’t think anyone can know for sure. A great piece from Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack illustrates the importance of a slow, cautious withdrawal.
This being said, I feel that I can trust Obama and Gates to do this disengagement in a safe manner while showcasing that the US is still strongly engaged in not only Iraq’s future, but also the whole regions’. Obama stated:
‘Every nation and every group must know – whether you wish America good or ill – that the end of the war in Iraq will enable a new era of American leadership and engagement in the Middle East. And that era has just begun.’
Besides the needless anti-bush rhetoric, I found this a positive sign asserting that the US will remain influential and will not retreat from the troubled, yet crucial region. Getting rid of Saddam was a good thing. Giving the Iraqi people a chance at a future is worth something. Letting all citizens and autocrats around Middle East possibly see a stable, democratic country in their backyard is worth something. Though I have some concerns, I feel that Obama knows the worth of these things as well. What do you think?
*I just found this and thought it quite funny.