As American troops have officially left Iraqi cities (aside from advisers, trainers, and others) the Iraqi people are celebrating a landmark as a (mostly) sovereign nation. However, the celebrations have been marred by bomb attacks and these show that things are far from normal in the country.
Of course, the United States has not left the country. While the cities are (mostly) devoid of US forces, we still operate numerous bases in the country. As such, Iraq still has a ways to go before it can be considered a truly independent nation. Of course, the US does maintain forces in other sovereign countries (Japan, Germany, and South Korea being a few examples), so perhaps the US will be there to stay for quite some time. This can be a very good thing for the host country: the US picks up a part of their defense costs and dumps money into their economies.
While there is a long way to go in Iraq, it is important to acknowledge the progress that has been made. The country is far more stable than it was after the invasion and there are some vaguely democratic institutions now in place. While the American forces deserve an incredible amount of praise, there is still the obvious question of whether the invasion was worth it. After all, we found no WMDs, Saddam was a minor threat, and Iraq had no real ties to terrorists groups (ironically, the invasion gave terrorists the chance to get into Iraq). So, after destroying a despotic but functioning government, losing thousands of Americans, losing untold thousands of Iraqis, and pouring in billions of dollars we now see a somewhat despotic and somewhat functioning government. Hardly the shinning democracy that was promised. Of course, it could have been much worse.
My view, which has been held since the beginning of the war, was that the war was a bad idea and that we had nothing to gain from fighting it or occupying Iraq. So far, nothing has happened to change my mind about this. I am, however, pleased that the Iraqi people and the American forces were able to finally turn around the disaster that had been created and restore a significant degree of stability. The fact that this is something that we should not have had to do takes nothing away from the honor and sacrfice of the brave men and women who have literally helped save the day. But, such a terrible price Iraq and America paid for this (Iraq most of all).
Some might see this success as a vindication of Bush. That would, however, be a mistake. To use an analogy, to say that Bush’ s plans led to success would be like saying that a frat boy who threw a party that wrecked a house had a successful plan because other people came and rebuilt the house he broke. Obama, of course, does not deserve credit for the success either. After all, the majority of the work was done before he arrived in office. The credit belongs, of course, to the folks in Iraq and the Americans that made this possible.
Of course, the future is still uncertain. Iraq is still shaky and might well fall back into despotism or fragment into violence. While we are supposed to only be there until 2011, we might well be there much longer.
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- U.S. military: 4 GIs killed in Baghdad (msnbc.msn.com)
- Iraqis to celebrate withdrawal of US troops (telegraph.co.uk)
- Violence Erupts in Baghdad as Deadline for U.S. Troops to Withdraw From Major Cities Nears (videocafe.crooksandliars.com)