|Al-Maliki: A big share of the blame|
You’re blaming the wrong president, said Steve Chapman in ChicagoTribune.com. It was George W. Bush who in 2008 signed the pledge to withdraw all troops by the end of 2011, not Barack Obama, and Bush did so at the insistence of the Iraqi government. Al-Maliki knew that most Iraqis were sick of U.S. soldiers in their streets, and that telling us to get out would enhance his popularity. And if we’re assigning blame for the ugliness we’ve unleashed, it was Bush and Dick Cheney who charged into Iraq in pursuit of Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, with “no understanding” of Iraq’s internal politics and sectarian divisions, “or the immense difficulty of constructing a stable order in an alien land.” From that one fateful, terrible decision, more than a decade of carnage and chaos has flowed. Ultimately, “Nouri al-Maliki lost Iraq,” said Fareed Zakaria in WashingtonPost.com, but “with an assist from George W. Bush.” If Bush and his team hadn’t foolishly decided in 2003 to disband the Iraqi army, and purge Sunni Baathists from the government, al-Maliki would have found it much harder to pursue his anti-Sunni agenda.
Invading Iraq was indeed “a grave mistake,” said Reihan Salam in Slate.com, but leaving as abruptly as we did was another one. Obama and al-Maliki did discuss leaving a small contingent of U.S. troops in Iraq to ensure stability, but al-Maliki could tell that Obama’s heart wasn’t in it. So he just walked away from the deal. “What Americans left behind was a state that could not stand on its own,” said Dexter Filkins in The New Yorker. As a result, everything “we built is now coming apart.”
It’s naïve to think the U.S. military could have prevented this crack-up, said Gordon Adams in ForeignPolicy.com. In the Philippines, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Haiti, and many other nations, the U.S. has failed time and again with both military force and billions in aid to transform troubled corners of the world into peaceful gardens of democracy. Yet some hawks still cling to “the blithe American assumption that the U.S. is omnipotent.” After eight bloody and costly years in Iraq, how much longer did we need to stay to work a miracle? Five years? Twenty? Fifty? We “should’ve known better” than to try in the first place.