Written 27 May
To appease their rabid far-left base, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton use every opportunity on the campaign trail to let voters know they will yank our troops from Iraq as fast as possible.
The competition between the two for the white flag quick draw contest has been somewhat humorous, except that it is serious business being played by two who shouldn’t be allowed anything more than cap guns.
With steady, significant, conflict ending progress having been made in Iraq over the course of the last year, are we already well on our way to the conditions which have our troops on the way home anyway?
If either Clinton or Obama assume office in January ’09 it is possible that any gradual troop reductions will be the result of a successful U.S. strategy and the hard work and sacrifice of our troops, not the fulfillment of ignorant campaign promises. A precipitous withdrawal would be another story.
The Anbar Awakening in which Sunnis rejected, en masse, the vicious ideology of Al Qaeda accelerated the conditions for a stable Iraq in areas that had once been a safe haven for terrorists.
A relentless assault on Al Qaeda through multiple successive operations has them, as Rear Admiral Driscoll stated this week, off balance and on the run. Al Qaeda may still be able to stage a spectacular lethal attack, but we do have “our teeth on their jugular.”
Decreasing Al Qaeda’s negative influence segued into peace and cooperation among Sunni and Shiite Iraqis in mixed neighborhoods and villages. The reconciliation between the different sects in Iraq on a very large scale was undeniable starting last fall and chronicled well in this column. While critics here ignored it or were so blinded by their quest for top down reconciliation that they missed the bottom up reconciliation taking place, those on the ground in Iraq, and those here who followed the details of events saw the significance of what was taking place.
All the criteria for success have been positive the last year: violence of all kinds down (by every measurable metric), infrastructure improvements, markets reopening and life going back to normal, continued cooperation and reconciliation, economy rebounding, and benchmarks being met.
We have seen steady, consistent progress within the Iraqi government. Just as local leaders have come to cooperate with one another for neighborhood and city governance, so have those elected to the national level. Although progress has been slow, it is without question taking place. Each day they gain experience and those who had previously walked away from the system have now returned to participate.
The Iraqi Army continues to improve and has done so to the point where they’ve now fought two major campaigns as the lead forces. They took and are holding Basra, and then led and entirely on their own, hold Sadr City. As key signals for future success, Shiite leadership cracked down on Shiite militants, and Iraqi troops followed the lead of their civilian leadership, not the leadership of clans, tribes, or sects.
Prime Minister Al Maliki has also shown skills not previously seen during both of those battles. He personally took the lead in Basra, and successfully used a position of strength to find political solutions for Basra and Sadr City.
It appears that he and the Iraqi government are finding the political solutions afforded them by their own and coalition military efforts.
With benchmarks being met, all measurable metrics improving, reconciliation taking place, and Iraq racing to a new set of elections this fall, is it any wonder that General Petraeus has twice testified he is likely to resume drawing down troops in September?
If these trends continue in Iraq, it seems quite likely that continued troop reductions because of this success would also make sense.
So if we’re well on our way to victory because of the strategy implemented over the last year and a half, and already in a troop reduction mode because of that success, does it really matter what any of our Presidential candidates say about “pulling troops out of Iraq?”
Not really, but it makes for good political red meat.