The former U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker is too modest to mention his own invaluable role in averting disaster in Iraq. He was, along with Gen. David Petraeus, responsible for the remarkable turnaround in the war and in staving off congressional calls in September 2007 to bug out. In an op-ed in the Washington Post, he explains:
The difficulty and delays we have seen since the March elections illustrate the fundamental truth that everything in Iraq is hard and is likely to continue being hard. When the next government is in place, it will have to wrestle with the tough issues that have been shelved since the elections and their aftermath. …
The threat of al-Qaeda-sponsored terrorism persists in Iraq, as recent attacks have made clear. Iraq’s relations with its neighbors, especially Iran and Syria, remain difficult amid signs that Tehran is waiting for a U.S. exit to ramp up its efforts at destabilization and reclaiming the ground it has lost in Iraq the past several years. Other challenges include the rising popular impatience over economic stagnation and the lack of basic services; refugees; widespread corruption; and a growing imbalance between Iraqi military and civilian governance capacities.
He is not predicting doom, but rather urging patience and persistence:
It is not a record of failure but an illustration of the enormity of the challenges in Iraq. How successfully Iraqis deal with these challenges has a great deal to do with the level of U.S. engagement going forward, including the process of government formation. . . Our lack of strategic patience is something that, over time, our adversaries have come to count on and our allies to fear — in Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Like others who have urged continued American involvement, Crocker points to the Strategic Framework Agreement and the possibility that the Iraqis may ask that our troops remain beyond 2011. (“If so, I hope we will listen carefully.”)
Here’s an idea: if Obama really wants to preserve our gains, why not send Crocker back to Iraq for a couple of more years? That would be a signal of support that the Iraqis would surely appreciate. And it would indicate that the president finally understands the strategic smarts of the Bush team, which snatched Iraq from the jaws of defeat.