In his remarks last night, President Obama said the time has come “to turn the page” on the Iraq War. That’s fine, except that Obama clearly didn’t read what was on the page before he turned it, as TAC contributing editor Andrew Bacevich contends in the New Republic today:
After seven-plus years, Operation Iraqi Freedom has concluded. Operation New Dawn, its name suggesting a skin cream or dishwashing liquid, now begins. (What ever happened to the practice of using terms like Torch or Overlord or Dragoon to describe military campaigns?) Although something like 50,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, their mission is not to fight, but simply to advise and assist their Iraqi counterparts. In another year, if all goes well, even this last remnant of an American military presence will disappear.
So the Americans are bowing out, having achieved few of the ambitious goals articulated in the heady aftermath of Baghdad’s fall. The surge, now remembered as an epic feat of arms, functions chiefly as a smokescreen, obscuring a vast panorama of recklessness, miscalculation, and waste that politicians, generals, and sundry warmongers are keen to forget.
Back in Iraq, meanwhile, nothing has been resolved and nothing settled. … As the United States removes itself from the scene, Iraqis will avail themselves of the opportunity to decide their own fate, a process almost certain to be rife with ethnic, sectarian, and tribal bloodletting. What the outcome will be, no one can say with certainty, but it won’t be pretty.
Lather, rinse, repeat in Afghanistan…
The two wars of the past decade have ostensibly been fought as part of larger War on Terror. But the conditions the U.S. will eventually leave behind in both places promise to be virtually indistinguishable from those that gave rise to the Afghan Taliban in the first place. In Afghanistan, that’s no change at all, and in Iraq that’s a change for the worse, at least as far as U.S. interests are concerned. With nation-building wars, victory is the identical twin of defeat.