A Test of the Future

This Tuesday by midnight, American armed forces will have left Iraqi towns and cities, turning over security responsibilities to police forces and local military. This target date will be strictly upheld and both parties will benefit but the problems of post-Saddam Hussein Iraq remain far from resolved.

The June 30th deadline as well as the upcoming final drawdown date (December 31st 2011) is not the work of Barack Obama although he will have difficulty folding them into his policy. George W. Bush brought negotiations with the Iraqi regime to a close in the fall of 2008, talks that he himself put in place and that would prove more difficult than expected. The Americans finally realized that the Iraqi adventure has transformed into a nightmare.

The chosen solution (could no other be reached once the initial invasion was over?) brings back furious memories of U.S. involvement in South Vietnam in the 1970s. The Americans armed and trained a local army that would one day take over local security concerns. However, in Southeast Asia, the departure of the Americans was a rapid and bitter flight from a “friendly” regime.

The future of Iraq isn’t any more reassuring that the South Vietnamese past. The demons of co-existence between Shiites and Sunnis, a Pandora’s box the American’s thoughtlessly forced open, might resurge in the short-term. Such turmoil would most likely inspire the Kurds in the North to cement their de facto autonomy. None of these scenarios even comes close to that which haunts many in the Middle East as well as on the banks of the Potomac: the ayatollahs of Iran forcibly imposing domination on its neighbor, taking advantage of the vacuum that the Americans will leave behind.

In fact, there is no good solution. A bloodless conquest of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq will prove to have been easier than to leave the country in good order. If Obama’s knack for foreign policy allows him to avoid a civil war, the worst will have been averted. But politicians must swallow the final, bitter pill- only a strong regime can keep Iraq form devolving into the chaos of war.

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