Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Situation in a Visit

Vice President Biden visited Iraq to reassure everyone that the departure of our troops doesn't mean we are washing our hands of the country or the region. Obviously, this is directed at Iran as much as Iraqis.

Several parts of the article summarize the situation.

First, Biden:

"Our troops are leaving Iraq, and we are working on a new path together, a new face of this partnership," he added. "This is marking a new beginning of the relationship that will not only benefit the United States of America and Iraq. I believe it will benefit the region and will benefit the world."

That's the big picture that we don't intend to walk away. And that a stable and prosperous friendly Iraq will benefit the region and the world. In contrast to Saddam's Iraq, of course.

Second, this is victory and it was not a wasted effort:

Biden said that people in both countries have had to overcome misperceptions about the relationship. He said people in the U.S. still ask whether it is worth it to spend so much energy and money in Iraq, a country where 4,485 American military personnel have died and tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed.

"We have jointly demonstrated, it is worth it, it is worth it — as costly and as difficult and sometimes as controversial as it is," he said.

I'll add that we finally have a more realistic estimate of Iraqi casualties instead of the figures used to damn Bush. Yes, we're talking tens of thousands--not hundreds of thousands. At most, 120,000 died. That's a lot. But few died in our liberation campaign. Most died at the hands of jihadis, Baathists, and Sadrists trying to destroy the fledgling democratic Iraqi government.

VP Biden highlighted how many will be associated with our embassy:

Seeking to counter skepticism about why the U.S. will still have such a large presence in Iraq — the largest American embassy in the world — Biden said the U.S. needs to have experts in a wide range of areas "on hand, in country." The U.S. will also have thousands of security contractors to protect the embassy's facilities in Baghdad, Kirkuk, Irbil and Basra and diplomatic personnel.

He wouldn't have to do that if we still had 15K troops or more after this year. But he's trying to make lemonade out of lemons. I hope it works.

And we also have a notice of Iran's little friend in Iraq:

Followers of al-Sadr rallied in Basra and Baghdad on Wednesday, chanting "Biden get out of Iraq," and "No to America."

Why that three-time insurrectionist is still alive is beyond me. I fear we will pay for that oversight.

One thing not mentioned is the Kurdish question. But the Kurds don't seem like they will do something stupid to upset the status quo by seeking pointless formal independence. But it is a point of tension as the Arab majority sorts out issues with the Kurds.

Also, I'd like to take issue with the idea that we won't have troops in Iraq after this month because we wouldn't allow our troops to be subject to Iraqi legal jurisdiction. While technically true, it ignores that we just didn't try to work out an agreement as we have with so many other countries around the world. If we really have restored "smart" diplomacy, you'd think we could have gotten a "yes" from Iraq when everyone there and here understood our presence is important.

We won this war. It was worth it. Now we have to defend it from internal anti-democratic forces and the Iranians. This doesn't make Iraq less of a victory any more that having to de-Nazify and democratize German society, and defend West Germany from the Soviets meant that World War II wasn't worth it.