Adam L. Silverman, PhD**
Even before we left Iraq earlier this month, informed observers had begun to notice the beginnings of a new lie about Iraq: that the Obama Administration, and specifically President Obama, had pulled US troops out, leaving the job undone, and therefore jeopardizing everything we had fought so hard to achieve there. I have seen this in the press and I have heard otherwise well informed military personnel parrot it (often, for them and for obvious reasons, with a great amount of personal pain coming through). Now I am not suprised that Ms. Rubin or Ms. Pletka have gotten this wrong, not to mention many other commenters, pundits, and even reporters. In their cases it is appropriate to quote Upton Sinclair: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it." Unfortunately their either misinformed or willingly misinforming understanding of what actually happened to lead the US to complete a timely withdrawl from Iraq ending Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn after seven years is being picked up by people who need to have a correct understanding of the situation as they attempt to reach proper understandings of various problem sets and potential problem sets that the US faces in the Middle East, Central Asia, and other parts of the world.
As I have written here at SST, as well as at Foreign Policy's Best Defense (Tom Ricks' site and, like all his guest "correspondents" have NO control over the titles to their posts...), we were leaving, and have now left, Iraq because the Iraqis told us to. They were able to do this because we transferred sovereignty back to them at the end of 2008 when our UN authorization to occupy Iraq expired and we agreed to a security agreement with the Iraqis that would allow US personnel to remain in place, with continued and increased transfer of control back to the Government of Iraq, with a complete withdrawl to occur no later than 31 December 2011. The reasons for this are simple to follow:
2) The Iraqis rolled us on both of these negotiations. The Iraqi High Electoral Commission (IHEC) proposed a really screwy open list/proportional representation electoral process that even one of the State Department's election specialists did not understand (I know this, because I had to explain it to him!). This process suited the powers that are in Iraq as it allowed them to consolidate their power and hold and control and it was during this period that we began to see PM Maliki begin his first steps to roll up the Awakenings and the Sons of Iraq. Once the Iraqis realized they could not only wait us out and then get what they wanted in the provinical election process negotiation, they realized they could duplicate it in the SOFA negotiation. Moreover, we wasted so much time on the election process negotiation, we had precious little left to resolve the SOFA issue. As a result we had to settle for the security agreement, which expires this Saturday night. While we did get the Iraqis to build in a caveat, that a popular referendum could be held and if Iraqis voted to let us stay the GOI would have to ask us to, this was always a tease. As I have recently written at FP, the Iraqis have scores to settle and positions to consolidate and they can not do that if we are in Iraq.
So we had to go and go we have. We followed the agreement that we signed and on that, at least, we have fulfilled a promise we made to the Iraqis. Had we not done so the President would have either had to present a novel new interpretation of the Authorization of the Use of Force for Iraq, gotten a new one from Congress, or an outright declaration of war, or been asked to stay by the Iraqis. None of these were going to happen. For good or for ill, the Iraqi mission is done. There were a lot of tactical and operational successes, but because the Bush (43) Administration committed strategic malpractice by failing to allow our senior personnel on the ground in 2008 to work on civil society reforms and societal reconciliation and by instead pursuing provincial elections that were unnecessary at the time (their fetish over elections=democracy) and a ridiculously outsize SOFA agreement all within their ongoing misunderstanding of Iraq, its people, its society, and its politics Operation Iraq Freedom could not become anything but a strategic failure. People should be upset, but they should be upset at the people who brought us this mess, not the ones who lived up to the obligations that the mess created.
* I found the picture here: http://hairlarious.files.wordpress.com/2007/02/bush_star_wars.jpg
** Adam L. Silverman, PhD is the Culture and Foreign Language Advisor at the US Army War College (USAWC). The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of USAWC and/or the US Army.
*** I am not arguing that ethnic cleansings, in Baghdad or anywhere else, are a good thing. Rather they were something that had occurred that created an opportunity that could have been used to try to benefit Iraqis.