Obama was left with but a single task: Negotiate a new status-of-forces agreement (SOFA) to reinforce these gains and create a strategic partnership with the Arab world’s only democracy.
He blew it. Negotiations, such as they were, finally collapsed last month. There is no agreement, no partnership. As of Dec. 31, the U.S. military presence in Iraq will be liquidated. . . .
Three years, two abject failures. The first was the administration’s inability, at the height of American post-surge power, to broker a centrist nationalist coalition governed by the major blocs — one predominantly Shiite (Maliki’s), one predominantly Sunni (Ayad Allawi’s), one Kurdish — that among them won a large majority (69 percent) of seats in the 2010 election.
Vice President Biden was given the job. He failed utterly. The government ended up effectively being run by a narrow sectarian coalition where the balance of power is held by the relatively small (12 percent) Iranian-client Sadr faction.
I find this baffling. How on earth were Obama and Biden supposed to force Iraqi politicians who mistrust each other -- maybe hate is a better word -- to form a coalition government? More to the point, is it really any of our business how elected Iraqi politicians manage their affairs? Iraq is, as Krauthammer reminds us, a democracy, which means (or ought to) that Iraqi leaders are answerable to their constituents, not US interests.
The second failure was the SOFA itself. U.S. commanders recommended nearly 20,000 troops, considerably fewer than our 28,500 in Korea, 40,000 in Japan and 54,000 in Germany.But, see, the Iraqis don't want us there. Really don't want us there. And one of the big reasons they don't want us there is all the Iraqis we killed during the fabulously successful Bush administration. We acted like conquerors, like occupiers, and as a result we are hated. And since Iraq is now a democracy, something Krauthammer seems proud of, the will of the vast majority prevailed and we are going to leave. Isn't that what is supposed to happen?
I also dispute that Iraq was really in such great shape when Bush left office. Many US officers and diplomats thought then and still think that renewed civil war was all but inevitable. Bombs go off every week, killing dozens or hundreds.
Personally I think Iraq is likely to muddle through as a semi-democracy, with a high level of violence but not open war. And I think the presence or absence of 20,000 US troops would not have much impact on the matter; any added stability they might provide to the government would be balanced by the anger they create among Sadrites and other nationalists, besides spreading the sense that the government represents the US rather than Iraqis. So I think our leaving Iraq, in a way that does not look like a retreat, is the best possible outcome.
If Iraq was ever "won," it has not been "lost," and now the matter is in the hands of Iraqis, where it belongs.