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US Troops Withdraw From Iraqi Cities

Voluntarily as a part of the agreement signed last year by the Bush administration.


I think this is the first time I’ve mentioned Iraq at all for months. That in itself is quite amazing.

In 2006 most people were waiting for the Iraqi version of the last helicopter leaving the US embassy in Saigon.  Now, we’re turning over the vast majority of the security work in Iraq to the Iraqis as the people of Iraq celebrate the handover.

Trust me – no one is anymore pleased to be heading out of the cities than US troops.  And for the opponents of the war, it’s pretty hard to deny the success that has been built on the surge and the change in strategy implemented by the Bush administration.

In fact, Obama really hasn’t had to do a thing except accept the plan that administration left in place and execute it.

But …

There’s always a “but”. But that doesn’t at all means everything is smooth sailing and unicorns and rainbows are now in Iraq’s future. Instead it means that for the most part, the Iraqi state is functional and at least minimally able to take care of its own security. It also will probably mean, in the absence of US military might, that some of the old players will again try their hand at fomenting violence in a bid to reestablish their agendas for Iraq.

This still remains a red letter day for Iraq, however. And it also is a red letter day for the region. The question is will they continue to make progress or will we see sectarianism and the violence that usually accompanies it reemerges as US troops withdraw.

There are going to be horrific acts of violence in Iraq for a while. That is just the nature of the beast as the last of the dead-enders do their thing. What we have to hope for is the progress to this date continues, Iraqis think of themselves as Iraqis first (and whatever religious sect or ethnic group second) and work toward a stable and democratic Iraq.

Everyone I’ve talked too who’ve been there since the surge, to include Michael Yon, are very encouraged by what they’ve seen and experienced.

Best of luck to the Iraqi people – it is pretty much now theirs to make or break. We’ll soon see how badly they want what they have.


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10 Responses to US Troops Withdraw From Iraqi Cities

  • I have often said that success in Iraq ultimately depends on the Iraqis themselves finding their own version of Konrad Adenauer to lead them into the free world. History will tell if PM Malliki is that man or not. There’s not much that America can do to help in that regard.

    That said, these events bode well for the country’s future.

  • I realize that this is a red-letter day for the Iraqis, and they are due great praise for having the guts to press ahead in the face of suicide bombers, assassinations, and the democrats.  I pray for the future of Iraq and its people.

    That being said, I also like to reflect on the American soldier and his heritage.  I know it’s (TM) the Special Forces, but De Oppresso Liber should be the motto of our armed forces.  God bless the American soldier.  Courage, skill, mercy, humanity: has any army in history ever rivalled ours in these traits?

    Oh, and what did Grand Admiral Reid have to say about all this?  Does he still think we lost?

  • hate to be all pessimistic and crap, but you foretold the precise reason why the iraqi democracy experiment is NOT going to work – will fail spectacularly, in fact. in your own (100% correct) words: “what we have to hope for is (…) iraqis think of themselves as iraqis first, and whatever religious etc. group second.”
    as i understand it, the middle eastern mindset has been pretty much the same for the last 5000 years or so. their loyalties are given in accordance to a strict and exact hierarchy:
    1) their family  2) their extended family  3) their tribe or clan.  **everyone else** is seen is either an enemy at worst, or someone to be crapped on and stolen from at best. that’s been going on for 50 centuries, *at least*.  then of course you’ve got an additional 1500 years of islamic brainwashing, which reinforces the ‘contempt for those not in the club’ thing, along with a heaping dollop of “always obey what the big man tells you to do, even if you don’t like it.” there’s also the pervasive culture of baksheesh, which is a democracy-killer, and it’s not going to go away easily.
    by us pulling our troops out of the cities, we’re  in effect assuming that a mere 5 years of the most gentle occupation imaginable has somehow undone all those millenia of – shall we say – ‘non-democratic’ traits and tendencies. the lessons ofpostwar germany and japan teach us that such changes require *at least* a generation of occupation/close supervision, and those countries had had millions of their most stubborn, resistant, and belligerent men already killed to make the process smoother and easier.  iraq – not so much.  and, of course, the next-door neighbors hate hate hate america and will cheerfully do their best to take over/dominate iraq, either themselves or through deniable proxies. the iraqis are also aware that should it come down to it, they probably can’t count on american troops to help them in times of trial or peril: they recall how much good us being around did for the kurds when saddam decided to butcher them.
    sure, i’d like to be optimistic about this – optimism is one of the 2 quintessential american attributes – but hope is cheap. to actually *think* this is going to work, or make plans contingent upon it working, is masochistically naive. i *hope* it won’t turn out that we wasted all those troops’ lives and all that money – but that’s the way to bet.

  • Bet whichever way you want – in the end it will be the Iraqis themselves who will determine their own fate – not you or Iran or even the US.  And that, in the end, is what this has been all about.   Should the Iraqis choose a certain path, whatever the path they choose, it will have been the Iraqis who chose it – and that is the true meaning of freedom.

    If you take even a cursory view of history, you will see the same intent by the United States for the last 100 years.  The best example, the end of World War II.  In 1945, the United States had, without question the best Air Force and the best Navy in the world.  It could be debated whether the US or the Soviets had the best army.  But instead of forcing our will on the world we had freed from the Fascism and Nationalism of Japan, Germany and Japan – what did we do?  We disarmed.  We let the world determine its fate.  Each country freed, it was hoped, could choose its own path.  We did not force the action.  Where friction still lurked was where the freedom to choose was thwarted – eastern Europe and what became known as the Iron Curtain and along what some referrd to as the “Bamboo Curtain.”

    But where the people made their own choices, did that make the sacrifices made by American blood and treasure in vain?  I don’t see anyone pointing in that direction.  Do you?  Instead I see people pointing to what is being called “The Greatest Generation.”  So, for may part, it is now for the Iraqis to choose their own path and I wish them luck.  If they are able to do so freely then the cost will not be in vain.

  • …will fail spectacularly, in fact. in your own (100% correct) words:
    Two reasons why one can legitimately have doubts  about long-term success in Iraq: Iran and Syria.
    And to a somewhat lesser extent, Saudi Arabia.

  • an interesting post, sshiell. i’m not looking to be pugnacious here, so i’ll let pass the soaring rhetoric about how letting conquered countries chose their own way etc etc.
    what about countries that choose the *wrong* way? vietnam, specifically. the USA invested hundreds of thousands of dead/shattered *american* lives and *trillions* of dollars in today’s “money” to achieve a specific aim. it can be argued that our goal was not strategically sound; not particularly in our best national interest; or too altruistic to be effective – but that’s not what really matters. the most powerful nation on earth invested huge amounts of blood and money to achieve a desired aim, *and we allowed that effort to fail*. to make matters worse, the effort failed because of outside interference – the sovereign nation of north vietnam invaded and conquered the sovereign nation of south vietnam.  (and killed lotsa folks in the process, kindly note.) that was also a direct cause of the fall of cambodia, and the subsequent genocide there.
    did the south vietnamese people “make their own choices”? no. did the butchered cambodians? no. did “that make the sacrifices in american blood and treasure in vain”? yes. is that likely what’s going to happen in iraq? probably: how will iraq, more a collection of squabbling tribes than a nation, stand up to an aggressive, expansionist, well-funded, *nuclear armed* iran without more of our military might?  how will they even stand up to (yet another) saddam when he inevitably appears? i wish the iraqis luck, too. it’s just that, because they see themselves as (family name) first, then (name of tribe or clan) second, then (sunni or shiite) third, THEN they get around to being “iraqi”….
    is why they’re going to fail.
    lastly, using a “cursory view of history”, would you say that our allowing the USSR to survive after ww2 and consequently enslave eastern europe; contribute to turning china, cuba, north korea, etc. communist; funding and nurturing islamic terrorism until they could stand on their own feet, etc etc, ….would you say in retrospect that was a GOOD decision because it was in our national interest, or a BAD decision because by doing so, we were allowing ourselves to be hurt in the future? the same question goes for current-day iraq, too.

    • Interesting points.

      I agree that a considerable portion of Iraqi society is still clan / tribal, but other parts of Iraq are much more modernist. That the country HASN’T disintegrated into tribal / ethnic / religious chaos like A-stan is encouraging; it’s a hopeful sign that enough Iraqis are willing to set aside their lower-level allegiances in favor of a unified country. Iraqis, with encouragement from foreign actors including Iran, al Qaeda and the democrats, have had no shortage of opportunity to let their country disintegrate over the past several years. Instead, they seem to have stepped up: suicide bombings and threats didn’t stop them voting nor stop them joining their infant police and military forces. Will they continue to hold together? Time will tell, but there’s good reason to hope.

      While Iraq’s future ultimately depends on Iraqis, the biggest threat they face is that America will knife them in the back like we did Saigon.

      • Part of me kinda hopes Obama does pull us out too soon and the whole thing collapses.  Then no one will ever trust us again, and then we will not be involved in third world hell holes again. Of course I realize that is not realistic. But part of me wishes it.

        • No, I’m afraid it’s not realistic, because third world hell-holes are prone to producing terrorists, pirates, and dictatorial thugs who want to control as much of the world as they can get their hands on.

  • Yeah, right, because Vietnam didn’t teach them that lesson.  If anything it would teach future enemies to support Democrats once hostilities were engaged.