Today The Clueless Guy In The Oval announced (as expected) that all US troops other than the embassy guard will be out of Iraq by the end of the year. Instantly if not sooner, the political flacks which surround the Oval sprang into action averring with straight faces that this was the desired result as well as the fulfillment of a major campaign promise.
What a crock!
As American military and diplomatic officials including both the past and current Secretaries of Defense have maintained with a fair degree of passion, the continuation of a US military presence was essential for assuring that the past nine years, something on the order of a trillion dollars, and, most importantly, over 4,000 lives had not been wasted. Iraq's internal stability is very fragile on the best of days--and there are damn few of those. In addition, the Iranians present a clear and present threat against which Iraq has no credible means of either deterrence or defense. Beyond that, the Iraqi forces need much more training in their new weapons systems as well as in the areas of intelligence, logistics, air support, and communication.
Over the past year, the Obama administration had and threw away numerous opportunities to keep a suitable number of training, combat support, special operations, and combat forces in Iraq. The alleged block was the unwillingness of the Iraqi government to grant immunity from Iraqi judicial processes to the US personnel.
This, too, is a crock.
The administration--the president--insisted that legal immunity be granted by specific action on the part of the Iraqi Council of Representatives. This would have been politically impossible as the Obama foreign policy "team" must have known. There were other means of obtaining the requisite immunity which would have sidestepped the field of mines which constitutes the Council of Representatives as well the total Iraqi parliament. The simplest means would have been to list the names of each and every spook, special operator, trainer, and trigger puller on the embassy personnel roster, which would have made diplomatic immunity automatic. The Iraqi ForMin was wide open to this gambit as were other senior members of the Iraqi executive branch.
While it is true that Allawi--the head of the opposition bloc which was narrowly and questionably defeated by Maliki's bloc--complicated the matter, the US had and has sufficient juice with Allawi to end the stall he introduced. In short, there were no insurmountable obstacles in Baghdad to continuing the American presence even at the level of 20,000 troops.
The real deal was the Nice Young Man From Chicago was and is hoping that by bringing the last troops home against the rhetorical backdrop of declaring victory he will gain political mileage for the upcoming reelection bid. He has been purposefully willing to toss aside the last nine years, the trillion dollars, and the lives of more than 4,000 Americans for personal, partisan reasons.
The same applies to the specious claims of victory in Libya following the killing of Gaddifi yesterday. It was not a victory for the US. Nor was it one for NATO. While it is true that without the US/UK/French/NATO air campaign, on the ground advisers, weapons and equipment supplies, intelligence support, and diplomatic game playing, "Brother Leader" would still be oppressing the Libyans and haunting the international scene. But, the only "victors" were the assorted militias who did the fighting and dying--and who will now claim the rewards.
It will be up to these sundry groups of trigger pullers as well as the myriad of tribal and religious leaders who more or less control the men with the AKs to decide which reward will go to who. The probability of continued and escalating violence is somewhere between high and extremely high. Rewards will be claimed and fought over. Payback will be the word of the day for months to come. The body count, already high, will increase. The NTC is losing support, in large measure because its actions and decision making are as transparent as a sandstorm. Regional, tribal, and religious loyalties far exceed any attachment to something called "Libya" or the "Libyan nation."
The death of the "King of Kings of Africa" removed whatever thin and tenuous glue held the competing factions and their guns together. Now it is a matter of every region, every tribe, every city, every clan, even every individual for him or itself. Every man raises his AK or RPG or MANPAD against every other.
There is no "victory" here for the US or France or the UK. There is and will be only more challenges to regional stability, regional peace, to international efforts on behalf of these worthy end states. There is utterly and absolutely nothing for the US--or Mr Obama--to crow about or see as a good lesson for tomorrow.
There is only the hope on the part of the president and his advisers that the Libyan adventure in "leading from behind" will bolster his fading reelection chances. (Note the recent Gallup poll placing his approval rating at the new low of 41%.)
Iraq is frail. Libya is even worse. The risks and sacrifices taken and made in both have been in vain by any rational calculus. One can only hope that the Obama campaign will not be aided by these false "victories."