Is Obama Losing Iraq?

That is what some conservatives are saying. Due, apparently, to fumbled diplomacy, American troops are on their way out of Iraq, on the double. Maybe that will create an opening for al Qaeda. Or Iran. Or native Iraqi fruitcakes. Hugh Hewitt, for one, sounded that alarm on his radio show tonight.

My own view is different. Perhaps the end game could have been handled better, but after eight years, it is time to bring our military involvement in Iraq to a conclusion. It might have been nice to retain bases there–I am not qualified to comment on the significance of such bases in light of other facilities we have in the region–but Iraqis will stand or fall on their own. I don’t know whether Iraq’s fragile democracy will survive, but the U.S. has done everything reasonably possible to give Iraqis a chance. At this point, the future is up to them.

I supported the invasion of Iraq largely because I agreed with President Bush that the long-run solution to the problem of Arab terrorism is to bring the Arab world into the 20th century. I, like Bush, found it implausible that Arab culture is so inferior that Arabs, almost alone among the Earth’s peoples, are incompetent to govern themselves. I thought that a successful democracy in Iraq could lead the way to a better future for the entire Middle East.

All of that may still be true–as I’ve been saying for a long time now, ask me in 20 years. But events of the last eight years, including the outcome so far of the “Arab spring,” suggest that Arab culture may indeed be hopelessly benighted–hopeless, anyway, for the next century or two. I don’t know whether the outcome in Iraq (or Afghanistan, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria) will be a happy one. But I am convinced that the surge more than compensated for whatever errors we may have made in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and that we have given the Iraqis a solid shot at self-rule and a sane, reasonably modern society. At this point, whether they are able to take advantage of that opportunity is up to them.

I am not sure what Barack Obama’s motives are. Maybe he would be happy to see Iraq’s democrats fail, consistent with his obsessive need to blame everything that goes wrong in the world on his predecessor. But at this point, both his motives and his administration’s diplomatic skills are more or less irrelevant. After eight years, enough is enough. If the Iraqis are capable of governing themselves and joining the modern world, they will do so. If not, they won’t. But if they fail, it won’t be the fault of the Obama administration or the USA.

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