Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Barack Obama On Iraq: The Next George Bush?

Part of then presidential hopeful, Senator Barack Obama’s, platform was a steadfast promise to bring the troops home and pull out of Iraq. Though I was a supporter, I believed that the US had no choice but to remain in Iraq for a far longer term than what Senator Obama was selling to voters. But I was in on the secret. In all my infinite wisdom and jaded world weariness, I knew what Senator Obama’s true plan was. I knew that the Iraq war would never truly end. Yes, the war would ‘end,’ but with a long-term presence of American troops left in Iraq to ‘advise, assist & support Iraqi troops.’

In much the same way, Sarah Palin made the call on President Obama’s ‘hopey changey stuff,’ I made the call on Senator Obama’s electoral strategy on Iraq; rather than a bait & switch, it was a bait and hook. Show them what they want and give it to them, but with a till then unseen hook

Again, like Sarah Palin; I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Seven years, five months & twelve days after George W. Bush sat in the Oval Office and announced the start of America’s invasion of Iraq, Barack Obama sat in that very same office to announce the end of US combat operations in Iraq and reiterate the US’ agreement with Iraq to have a full troop pull-out by 2011. Perhaps remembering the ignominy that followed George Bush’s turn as a fighter pilot when he announced an end to ‘major combat operations,’ and stated the Iraq mission accomplished, the tone of Barack Obama’s address was far more sombre and presidential and far less John Wayne in the mould of Tom Cruise. Though Obama was being forthright in his campaign, however one has to wonder was this decision to pull-out is a decision many years too early, whether it is a decision that will one day come back to haunt Obama and but most importantly America.

The fact is, whilst there may be a largely irrelevant debate over whether this truly marks an ‘end’ to the US’ war in Iraq, or will that milestone only be truly reached in 2011 when all US troops have pulled out of Iraq, legally, and for all intents and purpose this US’ involvement in this war was finished, as promised, by Barack Obama when he made that address. As it ought to be, come 2012, Iraq will most probably not be an issue for Obama. However, undoubtedly part of Obama’s legacy, something that any US president holds dear and will fiercely defend, is this decision to end the Iraq War. Question is, though right now to America, this is one of the best things Obama has done, 5yrs, 10yrs down the line, will this be looked back on as one of the worst?

Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans support a troop pull-out, unlike Obama, polling also shows that Americans, neither believe that Iraqi security forces or the Iraqi government will be able to maintain the peace or successfully handle the political situation respectively. Having always had American troops to be the proverbial ‘security blanket,’ we can’t be certain just how the Iraqi troops will fare in handling Iraqi security. However, when it comes to the politics, the signs don’t bode well. Despite successfully holding elections earlier this year, Iraq, six months later, is still yet to form a government. Even more worrying is that much of the infighting between Iraqi politicians in forming their government is the very thing Barack Obama stated in his Oval Office address the Iraqi people have rejected; sectarianism, perhaps the greatest danger to Iraq’s future, which thus in turn presents a danger to America’s future as well.

Should the opinion of Americans be vindicated and the very tenuous peace, or rather, what passes for peace in Iraq fails to hold, what then? There of course, is the possibility that what America already sees as the ‘maligning influence,’ of Iran in Iraq may increase. In comparison to the worst case, and not at all far-fetched scenario, that outcome, would most probably be seen as a victorious. What most analysts fear, and some believe may occur, is that Iraq could become a failed state, particularly a failed state on the order of Somalia and Pakistan; a state where Al-Qa’ida has been able to gain a foothold and from there launch its operations. Even though the focus is on ‘home-grown terrorists,’ as George Santayana wrote, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Yes, Al-Qa’ida in Pakistan is focused on Pakistan & Al-Qa’ida is Somalia is focused on Somalia, but on the 10th of September 2001, general thought on Al-Q’aida in Afghanistan was that it to, was just focused on Afghanistan. The next day we all saw the danger they can pose regardless where they’re based.

The history books are littered with cases of the leaders who took decisive actions against the advice and warnings of many only to be proven to have miscalculated greatly, quite fitting, the most recent example is of course George W. Bush, who seven years, five months & eleven days ago to Obama’s address, decisively invaded Iraq. The arguments against a pullout in Iraq are far less widespread and in the face of the losses the US has faced in Iraq this is understandably so, nevertheless the arguments do exist. Despite the belief of those who support those arguments there is no way of knowing what will happen in an Iraq without the US, and we will have to wait and see if Barack Obama will come to rue sitting in the Oval Office to make an announcement on Iraq in as much as George Bush surely must.


  1. I'm pretty sure he can't win on this either way. One thing to note is the economic benefit of pulling out early. He's already stated that it's part of his deficit reduction strategy.
    -Love, justin heyns

  2. I'm all for America getting out of Iraq. However, what I really hope for, is that the people of Iraq would want better for themselves than to be lead or to be seen to be lead by a terrorist organisation. Look at our own country - some people thought South Africa would perish into a divided society caught in a Civil War. I hope that somewhere, someone in Iraq is thinking what is in the best interest of the population, the entire population not just a few selected, narrow-minded evil lot!

  3. Justin, I don’t think it’s impossible that this may work out for the best for Obama. Iraq could become a bastion of democracy in the Middle East, at least I certainly hope so, but I am doubtful. Either way, I *certainly* hope that the economic considerations were the last reasons, not even secondary in his decision to pull-out.

    Meagan, yep, I also hope that Iraq does go the way we went, but remember South Africa’s transition to democracy is referred to as, the South African ‘miracle,’ and those are few and far between. There are far more cases of things going the other way.