Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The war is over, long live the war

It is somewhat remarkable that Barack Obama is going to fulfill a campaign promise in pulling our forces out of Iraq. Brian Katulis and Larry Korb of the Center for American Progress argue that it wasn't the surge that ended the civil war and made this pull out possible, but rather Obama's decision to set a timeline for pulling out.

A few hours before President Obama's Oval Office speech on Iraq, Brian Katulis and Larry Korb of the Center for American Progress are out with an interesting take on what's happened in that country since George W. Bush's much-debated 2007 troop surge. They argue, as others often do, that it wasn't a relatively minor boost in American troops that calmed Iraq's vicious sectarianism. But unlike most other commentators, who argue variously that the civil war had burned itself out and that the Sunni Awakening was a phenomenon unrelated to the surge, they argue that it was growing talk within American policy circles about setting a deadline for troop withdrawals that, in effect, scared the Iraqis straight:

Deadlines for a strategic redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq -- initially proposed in 2005 by leaders like former Representative Jack Murtha, championed by Democrats in Congress and candidates in the 2006 midterm elections, and outlined by the 2006 bipartisan Iraq Study Group -- all sent the important signal that Iraqis needed to take greater responsibility and ownership of their own affairs. The message that America's commitment to Iraq was not open-ended motivated forces such as the Sunni Awakenings in Anbar province to partner with the U.S. to combat Al Qaeda in 2006, a movement that began long before the 2007 surge of U.S. forces.

The message that Americans were leaving also motivated Iraqis to sign up for the country's security forces in record numbers. The "surge" of U.S. troops to Iraq was only a modest increase of about 15 percent -- and smaller if one takes into account the reduced number of other foreign troops, which fell from 15,000 in 2006 to 5,000 by 2008. In Anbar province, the most violent area, only 2,000 troops were added.

I know, I know, there will still be many opportunities for Americans (not to mention Iraqis) to die and for violence to return, but this, as VP Biden would put it, "a big fucking deal" and we should, solemnly of course, celebrate this fact.

Obama is betting that by putting a timetable for withdrawal in Afghanistan, Afghans will be similarly motivated to sort out their political quagmire.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Weblog Commenting by HaloScan.com Site Meter