Monday, June 16, 2014

Bush Did What He Could Getting a Three-Year SOFA

Trying to blame President Bush for not putting in place a long-term security agreement with Iraq and thus allowing President Obama to walk away in 2011 ignores the uproar doing that would have provoked here at the time.

This really ignores the political environment of 2008:

Look, I will stipulate that the president’s signature recklessness is abundantly evident in Iraq. He heedlessly withdrew U.S. forces, making no effort to preserve the security gains they achieved in routing al-Qaeda, even as it became obvious that the withdrawal had evaporated those gains and invited the terror network to return with a vengeance.

Still, it was not Obama who agreed to the withdrawal schedule. It was President Bush.

Come on. Seriously? The SOFA is about the last thing that can be blamed on Bush.

Bush would have been impeached in the few months he was still in office after the 2008 election had he hammered out a long-term military presence and tied the hands of the new savior-like president-elect about to take office.

Indeed, in early 2008, Congressional Democrats were demanding a treaty so it would have to go through them where it could be killed, no doubt.

Bush did well just to buy a few years of peace to allow Iraq to develop, given the polling on American views of staying. I was relieved to have a three-year deal:

We could still lose this war. Remember, when we left South Vietnam in 1973, the Viet Cong were defeated. In 1975, North Vietnamese armored columns conquered South Vietnam, making our defeat of the Viet Cong rather irrelevant.

We could still go that route. And you'd remember this if you've been reading our polls.

And when those 3 years were up? At the time it was clear to me that a new agreement would be needed:

My guess is that the Iraqis will negotiate a new agreement to keep Americans in Iraq even after 2011. Iraq still needs us to guarantee that external threats are kept at bay while the Iraqis build up their conventional military power. Remember, Iraq's military is almost purely a counter-insurgency force now and cannot fight conventional enemy forces.

And even if some miracle of events leads to the overthrow of the Iranian mullahs and the neutering of the Syrian Baathist regime, Iraq will still need our armed presence to set parameters for resolving political disagreements inside Iraq. Remember, it isn't the factionalism that is a problem as far as I'm concerned. The question is whether the Iraqis settle their disputes through rule of law and accept election results (unlike the Thai losers of the last election who demand power despite their loss) as a mandate to govern and not to plunder--and if the losers understand that the winners won't use 50% plus one as a mandate to oppress the losers, the losers will gear up for the next election and to oppose the majority through the legal system and media rather than stockpiling arms.

But President Obama got out of Iraq as soon as he could. Iraq does need us. And we do risk defeat in Iraq.