The last combat troops from the United States left Iraq on Wednesday, two weeks ahead of schedule. Thus, Barack Obama met his commitment to end the mission in that country and withdraw thousands of U.S. troops. The White House recognized this as a historic moment in which a bloody war officially ended. Behind lie seven years of conflict that began in 2003, with the name, “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” and ended with the dispatching of dictator Saddam Hussein heavily affecting Spanish politics.
Before the tipping point, the Bush administration overwhelmingly won a war, but then the bottom fell out in a brutal post-war period, with little planning and too much improvisation. A criminal regime, responsible for true genocide, ended. But that led to an out-of-control situation, with thousands of casualties, to contain an Islamic terrorism seeking to fill institutional and political vacuums caused by dismantling the bureaucracy, Iraqi elites and the disappearance of the armed forces — without doubt, enormous U.S. errors in management.
The questions asked today about the war in Iraq are whether or not that country is better off than it was in 2003, whether or not the intervention was justified, and whether or not the world is a safer place. The answers are not sufficiently conclusive to support a withdrawal. Without doubt, for Iraq and the rest of the countries involved, the intervention led to enormous sacrifice, but it meant the end of a regime of terror. We must consider what the consequences might have been, if nothing had been done, if a policy of non-involvement had been taken.
Looking beyond these fundamental reasons, the fact remains that the horizon is marked with uncertainties, complexities and threats. There is the possibility that Obama may have withdrawn prematurely, forced by U.S. public criticism, and especially because of the war in Afghanistan. Time will tell whether or not the U.S. president took a shortcut that proved unlucky for Iraqis last Tuesday, when a suicide bombing killed at least 61 recruits waiting to join the army. It also stands to reason that the withdrawal of Americans will generate disappointment and even anger among Iraqis, who may feel abandoned when their own armed forces recognize that they are not prepared to protect the country and will not be prepared until 2020.
Political criteria or military rationale? Looks more like the former than the latter — the same thing the U.S. administration continues to face with its military leaders over the future of the war in Afghanistan and the calendar for leaving another angry hornets’ nest. An untimely withdrawal — and we know something about that in Spain — is ultimately a defeat made hollow by its sacrifices, that aggravates the situation rather than ends it. Looking realistically at Iraq, the objectives of the international mission remain far from having been achieved with the necessary success.