Finally, Nouri al-Maliki – a guy I’ve been calling an empty suit for years – seems to have grown a pair and is standing up for the Iraqi people against the Americans.
The Iraqis want our combat forces to leave in an orderly fashion by withdrawing troops using a timetable that will be mutually agreed upon. What’s not to like in this?
Well, if you’re President Bush or John McCain, you have a political problem in that you have opposed a timetable being attached to our withdrawal for years. But that was Democrats setting arbitrary timetables not the sovereign nation of Iraq giving their problematic allies a graceful way to exit with honor and a true “Mission Accomplished.”
Saddam is gone. His WMD programs are history. The Iraqi army has proven in Basra, in Sadr City, and most especially in Mosul that they are capable of handling the security of the country (internal). The police – while still a large problem as far as corruption – performed quite well in Mosul also.
Just what is it we are still needed for?
Security from external threats? Agreed – but we don’t need 135,000 troops for that. We don’t need 50,000 troops in Iraq either. A “tripwire” force of less than 20,000 should be all that’s needed to keep Iran or Syria or any other hostile power from violating the territorial integrity of Iraq. With the pre-placement of equipment for a much larger force along with several thousand American advisers to continue the Iraqi’s training, a large combat presence will be tough to rationalize.
It was unrealistic of us to think that we could nurture this fledgling democracy through its growing pains and into the light of true liberty. At some point, the apron strings must be cut and the Iraqi government and people must go out on their own and find their own path to freedom. It will be messy. There will be stops and starts. It won’t look much like western style democracy. But the Iraqis must develop their own traditions, their own institutions if they are to succeed in joining the free nations of the world.
Ben Franklins admonishment to a woman outside of Independence Hall after the Constitution was agreed upon at the convention should hold special meaning for the Iraqis. When asked by the lady what kind of government to delegates had given the people Franklin responded “A republic ma’am – if you can keep it.” I don’t know exactly what kind of government will emerge in the coming years in Iraq. All I’m sure of is that it will be an Iraqi government. It may be free. It may be less free. It may devolve into a dictatorship – perhaps even mimicing the clerical fascists next door in Iran.
And while we will watch with great interest and even powerful emotions, it matters not what we think. We have done all that we can to give them this opportunity – an opportunity that cost us more than 4,000 brave souls and countless thousands who returned maimed, disfigured, and emotionally troubled. Other unforseen consequences will no doubt emerge not the least of which is a regional power in Iran who will try their best to undermine what we have started in Iraq. They may succeed. And then again, they may not. There are many in Iraq who are dedicated to establishing a secular democratic state. Perhaps their good hearts and good intentions will hold off the beast to the south who will work through proxies to try and destablize the nascent state.
But it will not be our direct concern anymore. Take the deal, Mr. President. The Iraqis have grown up and are ready to take responsibility for their own security, their own state. Hasn’t that been our goal all along.
Make the deal, Mr. Bush. It will be your parting gift to the country and might – just might – raise you up in the estimation of your countrymen. Goodness knows you’ve done enough the last 8 years to lower it.