June 15, 2014

Obama, After U.S. Troops Under George W. Bush Won the Iraq War, Restarted It, and Is Now on the Verge of Losing It

I wrote five years ago that Iraq, a war which was won a few months before he took office, was Barack Obama’s to lose (See “Flashbacks” below, and I’m sure there are others).

He has spent the entire intervening period working on losing it.

He has almost succeeded in that task.

Mario Loyola at National Review provides the details (bolds are mine; links are in original):

Obama’s Criminal Negligence in Iraq
The president didn’t end the Iraq war. He restarted it.

President Barack Obama came to office promising to “bring a responsible end to the war in Iraq.” That should have been easy enough to do, considering the war was already over. Alas, he seems to have had in mind something quite different than “ending a war.” Perhaps because of his general bias against exertions of American power, Obama seems to have convinced himself that our continuing military presence in post-war Iraq was the same as continuing the war.

(Obama) came to equate “responsibly ending the war in Iraq” with throwing away everything we had gained from it. Obama made it plain from the start that he saw no reason to keep investing in a mistake. He let our military presence in Iraq lapse, and left the Iraqi government to fend for itself when it was still far too fragile. There is a reason we stayed in Germany and Japan and South Korea for decades after the fighting stopped: We didn’t want our sacrifices to be for nothing, and we didn’t want to have to fight again.

Now the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIS — the very al-Qaeda forces we defeated in Iraq in 2007 — have come back and taken over huge swaths of the country …

… in its approach to Iraq and the Middle East as a whole, the Obama administration has been criminally negligent. It could be years and maybe decades before we see a situation as good as the one Obama found when he got to office — and things are almost certainly going to get far worse before they get better.

By the time he got to the White House in early 2009, Obama should have realized that the war in Iraq was already over, and that we had won. Exactly two years earlier, the Iraqi security forces were reaching critical mass, simultaneous with the start of America’s own surge, and the Sunni tribes of Anbar province were all coming over to the U.S. side. By the summer of 2007, when I was embedded in Iraq, U.S. and Iraqi forces had utterly defeated al-Qaeda’s Iraqi offshoot, ISIS, in a series of massive joint operations. The following year, the Shiite prime minister Nouri al-Maliki personally orchestrated the offensive that crushed the Iranian-backed militias collected in and around Basra in southern Iraq.

U.S. casualties in Iraq were close to levels commensurate with peacetime training activities back home, and a tenuous but real peace reigned over the whole country. Obama inherited from the Bush administration the framework agreement for a long-term alliance with Iraq, as well as a status-of-forces agreement that set December 2011 as a tentative withdrawal date for all U.S. forces. Iraqi politics were dominated by a Shiite-led coalition that overtly favored an ongoing alliance with the United States. In the press, Shiite militias accused each other of being under Iranian control.

At that point, the U.S. was exerting an enormously beneficial and calming influence on Iraqi politics. Sunnis who felt abused by the majority Shiite government could appeal to the Americans for help, while Shiites could remonstrate to the Americans about Sunni intransigence. Both could get results — peacefully — through America’s good offices.

… America’s continuing military presence allowed U.S. military officers and diplomats to exert enormous influence both within Iraq and in the broader Middle East. It allowed us to keep the peace among Iraqi factions while simultaneously diminishing Iranian and Wahhabi Arab influence. … the prospect of a successful democracy (however rudimentary and corrupt) functioning at the heart of the Middle East gave enormous hope to the pro-democracy movements of the region. In order to consolidate those gains it was absolutely vital for the U.S. to make a long-term commitment and back it up with a long-term military presence.

… By all accounts, Obama barely lifted a finger to preserve a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq, even when — as Dexter Filkins recently reported in a phenomenal feature for The New Yorker — all major Iraqi factions were asking, in private if not in public, for the U.S. to stay.

… The tentative end-of-2011 withdrawal date became fixed, and all U.S. forces were gone by the beginning of 2012. What so many Iraqis feared would happen next did not take long to come.

… The civil war in Syria would inevitably threaten the stability of Iraq, and potentially turn into a cataclysmic regional conflict. Hence, opponents of intervention in Syria should have realized that the only alternative to intervening in Syria was to send U.S. forces back into Iraq, in order to seal off the Iraq–Syria border and buttress the Iraqi security forces.

Obama’s skepticism (a) of American power apparently blinded him to how vital that power was to the maintenance of peace and stability. Perhaps this discomfort with American power meant the gains of the Iraq war were a burden to him. If so, he couldn’t do anything to reverse the 4,500 lives we lost and $1 trillion we spent to liberate Iraq. But maybe he could make people stop saying the sacrifice had been worth it.

If that was his purpose, then there is at least one area in which his foreign policy is succeeding.

(a) – The correct word is “hostility.”

The only open question is whether Barack Obama pulled all U.S. troops out of Iraq primarily to shore up his impatient leftist base in the name of assisting his reelection effort, or if he did it primarily to discredit the original war effort, regardless of its impact on the Iraqi people and the long-term impact on this nation’s credibility and will. I pick Door Number 2.


  • Jan. 25, 2009“The hope is that Barack Obama won’t bungle his way into losing what George Bush and the US military won.”
  • August 19, 2009“Remember, this war is this administration’s and this Congress’s to lose, because the Bush 43 administration won it — twice.”


UPDATE — Andy McCarthy’s position at National Review doesn’t negate the fact that the war was won, and his de facto argument that Bush somehow locked Obama into a withdrawal timetable is ludicrous.



  1. I think this episode shows us that US presence does have a stabilizing effect in the world. Without US support and influence, things take a turn for the worse. Other evidence for my statement: Africa in the 90′s, Iran’s current development of a nuclear weapon, North Korea’s and China’s increasingly aggressive posture, Russia’s boldness with in Ukraine. For better or worse, we have some evidence to show those who support Ron Paul’s isolationist foreign policy.

    Comment by GW — June 16, 2014 @ 12:18 pm

  2. #1, that was the theory advanced for all US interventionist actions. However, that being said, even a sound theory when misapplied can have bad results. In a world where the competing interests of selfish countries whose leaders could care less how many people suffer, the US interventions were a stabilizing but expensive influence of civilizing the world making it safer.

    It is unfortunate but as long as there are self serving interests like Russia, China, France and others who indiscriminately sell weapons to tin pot dictators and religious cultists there will always be a need and high expense to counteract their self serving activities. This is diametrically opposed to our model of economic prosperity through peace.

    Comment by dscott — June 16, 2014 @ 4:43 pm

  3. This entire debacle, or the appearance of a debacle is the product of Obama’s doing. Liberals will spin miles of yarn to obfuscate the fact that Obama was the decision maker since 2009. Choices have consequences.

    I would like to point out something here that may be overlooked by the scoffing at John Kerry’s ludicrous statements on AGW in view of what is the threat to world peace and stability. Even Obama made some absurd statements about AGW including the West Point graduation. We are so fixated at the nonsensical nature of the statements in view of today’s current crisis in the M.E. that we may be missing the obvious.

    The obvious is that Obama, Kerry and others are creating a faux narrative to justify fleecing of the whole world using AGW. This is not unprecedented for the fact that the EPA and others have used this justification to dislocate the economy using their power. I submit the current crisis was deliberately manufactured to justify high oil prices to make alternative energy competitive with conventional energy. While some may dismiss this as a conspiracy theory, if you look back at all of Obama’s actions/policies, they have resulted in chaos in the M.E. from Libya to Egypt to Syria to now Iraq. Afghanistan is perking up as well. Chaos in the M.E. naturally drives up the price of oil. Isn’t is remarkable that virtually every foreign policy in the world by Obama has served to increase instability in the world NOT decrease it? Is this from gross incompetence OR is this deliberate? Obama is a university educated person, to me it is inconceivable that someone no matter how ideologically driven would not be able to recognize that virtually everything they have done to date has turned to crap. It doesn’t make sense.

    If you follow that line of thinking then there can be only one conclusion, that Obama deliberately orchestrated chaos in the M.E. to advance AGW and Green Profiteering. Obama orchestrated the decent of Iraq into chaos by NOT supporting the Iraqi government and the security of Iraq. ISIS has been taking Iraqi territory since January, this current crisis didn’t just flame up this month.

    Comment by dscott — June 16, 2014 @ 5:24 pm

  4. Mark Steyn on the departure of America from the world stage:

    Comment by GW — June 20, 2014 @ 3:00 pm

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