Posted under Iraq
The Washington Post had an insightful article on Sunday: The war in Iraq isn’t over. The main events may not even have happened yet.
Almost every American official I interviewed in Iraq over the past three years agreed. “This is not a campaign that can be won in one or two years,” said Col. Peter Mansoor, who was Gen. David H. Petraeus’s executive officer during much of the latter’s tour in Iraq. “The United States has got to be willing to underwrite this effort for many, many years to come. I can’t put it in any brighter colors than that.”
Many of those closest to the situation in Iraq expect a full-blown civil war to break out there in the coming years. “I don’t think the Iraqi civil war has been fought yet,” one colonel told me. Others were concerned that Iraq was drifting toward a military takeover. Counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen worried that the classic conditions for a military coup were developing — a venal political elite divorced from the population lives inside the Green Zone, while the Iraqi military outside the zone’s walls grows both more capable and closer to the people, working with them and trying to address their concerns.
So, to address the perceptive question that Petraeus posed during the invasion: How does this end?
Probably the best answer came from Charlie Miller, who did the first draft of policy development and presidential reporting for Petraeus. “I don’t think it does end,” he replied. “There will be some U.S. presence, and some relationship with the Iraqis, for decades. . . . We’re thinking in terms of Reconstruction after the Civil War.”
The quiet consensus emerging among many who have served in Iraq is that U.S. soldiers will probably be engaged in combat there until at least 2015 — which would put us at about the midpoint of the conflict now.
Many worried that as the United States withdraws and its influence wanes, the Iraqi tendency toward violent solutions will increase.
At some point America must withdraw and attend to its own affairs. What if America is incapable of improving Iraq? What if such a task could only now be accomplished by Iraqis themselves?
The general consensus is that the American occupation is somehow morally owed the Iraqis after America took out their ruler, and yet no progress is made and, more importantly, Iraqis don’t want Americans there.
At least one cause of continued occupation is hubris: American leaders don’t want to admit their country made a mistake, so they bury their collective head in the Iraqi sands.
A quote from the article:
“What the world ultimately thinks about us and what we think about ourselves,” U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker said to me last year, “is going to be determined much more by what happens from now on than what’s happened up to now.”
Why is America’s reputation so important? Rather than asking, “what looks right?”, American leaders ought to be asking: “What is right?”
After the bombing of the Beirut barracks in 1983, Reagan cut his losses by evacuating within 4 months of the bombing. However humiliating admitting past error might have been, it was the right thing to do.