We got out of Iraq too soon

1st Lt. Becky Bort/U.S. Army

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Jeremy Lewis shakes hands with local children during a visit to a village near Kirkuk, Iraq, on May 8, 2010. U.S. soldiers visited villages around Kirkuk to meet and speak with the locals about conditions in the area.

Article Highlights

  • Obama beat graceful retreat from his original pronouncement that Iraq war was "dumb."

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  • Future of Iraq was again rendered uncertain by the premature departure of American forces

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  • Iraq transition to a strategic partnership as in postwar Germany, Korea or Japan would have been ideal

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Opposing view to USA Today editorial "Too fast to get out of Iraq? No, too quick to go in"

Barack Obama recently suggested that "history will judge the original decision to go into Iraq," a graceful retreat from his original pronouncement that the war was "dumb." But adherents to the "dumb" school remain legion on the far left and right, trapped in post-traumatic Bush hysteria and doctrinaire anti-war catechism.

"Adherents to the 'dumb' school remain legion on the far left and right, trapped in post-traumatic Bush hysteria." - Danielle PletkaMindful, however, that even the most ardent of anti-war activists have tired of re-litigating the original cause for the invasion, "dumb" schoolers have redirected their venom toward the Iraqi people themselves. But this new concept — that beneficiaries of American liberation must "earn" that right — puts the war's opponents in an awkward position. They are reduced to hoping for failure on the ground, gleefully trumpeting each misstep as further proof of the dumbness of the war.

Lucky for them, then, that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki used the occasion of the departure of American troops to execute a slow-motion sectarian coup. Within days of Obama's triumphal declaration of departure, al-Maliki issued an arrest warrant for his Sunni vice president and paraded an array of Sunni prisoners on Iraqi state television to buttress his case. Clearly the man did not earn our generous liberation!

The reality of the problem is not that al-Maliki is a creep. He is indeed. Nor is it that the Iraqi people "deserve" to live under dictators of one or the other sectarian stripe. Rather it is that the future of Iraq, which seemed clear after our post-surge military victory, was again rendered uncertain by the premature departure of American forces. Institutions like the military were not fully formed, territorial disputes were not resolved, and key questions relating to oil were up in the air. In such circumstances, opposing groups move to maximize their own power for the inevitable struggle.

Did this mean that U.S. forces should have stayed forever? No. A transition to a strategic partnership as in postwar Germany, Korea or Japan would have been ideal for U.S. interests in the region. But it did mean we should have stayed longer, as commanders recommended. Do the Iraqis "deserve" our support? Who cares. The question is what will serve American interests? And it appears that our interests were ill-served by the abandonment of Iraq by Barack Obama.

Danielle Pletka is vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at AEI

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