Today President Obama met Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki to commemorate the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. By the end of this month, all troops will be gone, leaving Iraq as an ally that will have to fend for itself in one of the world’s most volatile regions, with Iran as its neighbor.
At this point, no one knows what Iraq’s future is — or whether America’s intervention in the affairs of that sovereign nation was beneficial or harmful, stabilizing or destabilizing, a game-changer or a waste of blood and treasure. We know that America succeeded in overthrowing a murderous dictator and, after years of hard fighting and many American casualties, helped to establish a relatively peaceful democratic government in the vast, totalitarian expanse of the Middle East. The question is the staying power of Iraq and its current government, and whether it can maintain order for long enough for democratic institutions to truly take root. It will be years before the answers to those questions become clear.
I heard a report this morning that said that President Obama would spend this week touting the withdrawal of the troops and what he believes has been a foreign policy success. This is not a time for a “Mission Accomplished” moment, however. Proud words about America’s withdrawal and its meaning could quickly turn to ashes if the fragile Iraqi democracy collapses into a hell of suicide bombings and blood-soaked sectarian violence.