Yes, We're Really Leaving Iraq
The estimable Marc Lynch thinks President Obama is on course in Iraq:
Obama's surprise stop-over in Baghdad, following his impressive performance in Turkey, again hit the right notes. He demonstrated his continuing commitment to the American effort in Iraq, while strongly affirming his intention of carrying out the withdrawal of troops by the end of 2011. He pushed hard on Maliki, by all accounts, to move on reconciliation and to take advantage of the closing window of the American troop presence to secure a workable political accomodation. The message he's sending is the right one: American troops can not be the answer to Iraq's problems, they really are leaving, and it's now up to the Iraqis -- whether things go well or they go badly.
I really wish I would have bet money with the conservative I debated back in October who swore there was no way we'd ever leave Iraq for decades. Not only will we honor the SOFA, it's the right thing to do. I am deeply pessimistic that Iraq will become stable in the near-term - the spate of bombings and jockeying for power among Sunnis and Shiites suggests the opposite - but I do know that the US forces will have very little say over that. Today in Baghdad thousands gathered in the streets to protest the continued US presence. We have 140,000 troops in country now and cannot stop the violence. Internal dynamics have accounted for the ebb and flow of this war. Our presence has not. Lynch continues, taking to task commentators like Tom Ricks who can write entire books about Iraq without the perspective of one Iraqi:
Do I think that the war is over and that Iraq's problems have been solved? No, no, no. For years I've been pointing out the fragility of the political situation, and I've seen little to change my mind [...] But that's not the same thing as saying that America's war in Iraq will continue for a long, long time. I take Obama's commitment to drawing down seriously, and so --- increasingly -- do many Iraqis and those in the region. It isn't that the war is "over"... it's that the American role is fundamentally going to change. As American troops withdraw and Iraqi sovereignty cystallizes, something else I've been arguing for years will become ever more central: a solution which depends on American troops to enforce it is not a solution. Americans, as much as Iraqis, need to adapt to this credible commitment to the drawdown of U.S. troops.
Contrary to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the President has clearly decided that the United States needs to be involved in the solution, in Iraq he has committed to a regional solution that involves the Iraqis instead of our men and women. In THIS - not in the surge - Obama could learn from the experience and apply it to the other Asian land war.