The Associated Press seems to think President Obama’s address on the winding down of the Iraq War was confusing to most viewers/readers of the full text of it. I personally was not left with many questions, as the course of action troops in the area will now be taking is a course I have advocated for months. (I get results.) For those of you who are confused, however, here are the things you’ll need to know about what the Iraq War will look like from now on.
The end of the combat mission. This is probably from where most of any confusion has come. There will still be some fighting, as al-Qaeda is still in the area and they certainly aren’t taking a breather, but Iraqi troops will be joining U.S. special forces in pushing them back, and those efforts will have less of an offensive element than they previously had. My interpretation is that these fights are considered good training opportunities for Iraqi soldiers. You can’t give an army control over violence in their country until they know what they’re in for.
The end of going it alone. That’s the point of having 50,000 U.S. troops remain. One of their chief roles now will be to train and equip Iraqi soldiers to handle the insurgency, not to mention Iraq’s own potential problems with neighboring states. No doubt some will argue that the U.S. bears some responsibility for there being an insurgency, but there isn’t much we can do to change that now.
The end of sectarian violence. There isn’t really one in sight, and this prevents Iraq from enjoying a fully functional and democratic government. I can think of no surefire way to solve this, other than to remind all sects in the country that they have a few fundamental values in common: the desire to live their lives as they please, hold their own government accountable, and stop worrying about being blown up to hell.
The end of not rebuilding stuff. When I’ve talked about U.S. troops staying behind a while to “clean up the mess they made,” this is a big part of what I’ve meant. Not that Iraq’s infrastructure was fantastic from the beginning, but if you’re going to make this a standard for victory, you might as well do something about it. I anticipate that some international aid will be requested, but whether or not it’s granted is a different matter. I’m thinking yes, in the end.
People have complained that the definition of “victory” in Iraq keeps changing, possibly because nobody ever had a good one. It really hasn’t; it has always included the above elements. Governments just have a hard time deciding which one to mention most. I would also add the need for a new economy in Iraq. But none of this justifies the war itself. No matter what comes out of it, it was a waste of everyone’s resources.