On Leaving Iraq

I want our troops out of that country as much as anyone. Unfortunately, I find myself in complete agreement with Tom Ricks, author of Fiasco and The Gamble and now a special military correspondent for the WaPo, who said last week on Fresh Air:

Thomas_Ricks.jpgWhen people say, oh, we should just get out of Iraq, we gave them a chance, in my heart I agree. I think staying in Iraq is wrong for American forces. My problem is, I think leaving Iraq is wronger. There are no good answers here… There are only bad answers, and I think it all comes from the fruit of the poison tree, which is the original decision to invade Iraq. We invaded a country on false premises, preemptively; I think, perhaps, the worst decision in the history of American foreign policy. And Americans, I think, still don’t grasp just what a terribly expensive decision that was, not just in money, but also in blood and moral credibility.

Also this week, Tony Blair said he has no regrets over toppling Saddam Hussein, arguing that the world is more secure and that Iraq has replaced “the certainty of suppression” with “the uncertainty of democratic politics.”

I’ll be interested to see Blair stand by that position 20 years from now. Also this week, the relevant portion from President Obama’s SOTU speech:

As we take the fight to al Qaeda, we are responsibly leaving Iraq to its people. As a candidate, I promised that I would end this war, and that is what I am doing as President. We will have all of our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this August. We will support the Iraqi government as they hold elections, and continue to partner with the Iraqi people to promote regional peace and prosperity. But make no mistake: this war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home.

I’ll be interested to see if the president stands by that 20 months from now. Ricks expects he will. But:

If Iraq does descend into violence and that violence involves the region in a kind of a World-War-I type scenario, America will be blamed. And I think that will be very difficult for us.

Iraq holds national elections on March 7.