The “Other War” Already?

Around this time last year, it was Afghanistan that we called the “forgotten war”. Now, with President Obama announcing a troop increase of tens of thousands and an Iraqi-style surge to prepare for the beginning of withdrawal by 2012, no one bothers to report about Iraq anymore. It would seem that the media can only handle one war at a time.

Fortunately Fareed Zakaria is there with analysis in Newsweek. The United States still have 120,000 troops in Iraq after all. The country is scheduled to hold elections next March while American forces will start leaving by August. “Month of parliamentary horse-trading will likely ensue,” notes Zakaria while the American withdrawal is bound to put further pressure on the “country’s ability to handle its own security.”

How we draw down in Iraq is just as critical as how we ramp up in Afghanistan: If handled badly, this withdrawal could be a disaster. Handled well, it could leave behind a significant success.

For while the costs of the war have been great and “perhaps indefensible,” Iraq could still turn out to be “an extraordinary model for the Arab world.” In spite of the political differences between the country’s Sunnis and Shiites and Kurds, the Iraqis are negotiating about their future, peacefully for the most part. Iraq’s political landscape is becoming more pluralistic and democratic; its press is free; its provinces have considerable autonomy; and its focus has shifted from jihad to business.

All in all, “the Obama Administration has a window of opportunity to cement these gains in 2010” by conducting an “aggressive and persistent” diplomacy in Iraq, “pushing the three groups to resolve the basic issues of power-sharing” before all Americans have left the country.


  1. Dear all:
    I am so sick of the ‘surge’ was a success narrative (which predictably has now being used to sell another surge in Afghanistan).
    Fareed Zakaria was one of the “liberal hawks” who sold the Iraq
    invasion in 2002-early 03 and therefore has a vested interest in
    the narrative that Iraq “will be an estraordinary model for the
    Arab world” as in the next breath he admits that the “costs have
    been indefenseable”. Those costs have not been just the better
    part of a trillion dollars and over 4 thousand U.S. dead soldiers,
    tens of thousands of causalties, and over a hundred thousand with
    PTSD but over a hundred thousand dead Iraqis (at least) 4 or 5
    million refugees and a totally devastated infrastructure. The Tigris
    and Euphrates Rivers no longer flow to the Persian Gulf because
    Iraq is helpless to stop its neighbors from diverting its head waters
    and the fertile crescent which once was the biblical “Garden of Eden”
    is now a polluted desert. When the U.S. invaded Iraq could feed itself.
    Now it imports 80% of its food. Meanwhile the nearly 7 year occupation costs more than ever, still has 120,000 U.S.troops pinned down, and there
    are more private contractors going into Iraq than U.S.troops leaving. Guess who gets paid more — private contractors. Because the Turks did
    not allow the U.S. to invade Kurdistan/ N. Iraq in ’03 it has been virtually indpendent since our invasion. Horrific bombings directed at the government and Shiites continue to exacerbate the Shiite/ Sunni divide and most Iraqis detest the U.S./Maliki government effort to privatize the oil fields. Both the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations and indeed the Bush/Cheney regime “war on terrorism” have proven conclusively to be diastrous strategic failures which antagonize the whole Islamic world of over 1 billion people. Their only benefit is to war profiteers and the corrupt generals who went along with these corrupt, privatized occupations and the Bush/Cheney regime war crimes. No country would want to go through such an endless occupation voluntarily.

    James Van Looy

  2. I suppose that when we say the surge was successful, we mean in military terms. The purpose of the surge was never to fix everything that’s still wrong in Iraq.

    In hindsight, I think it’s safe to say that invading the country, certainly invading it at the time the US did, was a big mistake. There were no weapons of mass destruction and Iraq wasn’t financing terrorism (at least, I don’t believe any proof for that has ever been shared). There were worse dictators in the world than Saddam Hussein which leaves very little reason for instigating a war and toppling the Hussein regime.

    In the end though, Iraq might well be better off. It’s well underway to become something of a stable democracy. Security has improved considerably, as have, and will, peoples’ rights and freedoms.

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