Max, the desire to not let everything we have accomplished and everything so many Iraqis and Americans died for come to ruin is nowhere stronger than in the U.S. military. Today Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had this to say:
“One of the things we tend to forget is how desperate we were in that fight, pre-surge,” Mullen said. He said that, despite continuing violence in Iraq, there are no signs that any groups seek to return to the kind of sectarian violence that plagued the country after the 2003 invasion.
“I certainly don’t take for granted the progress that we’ve made, I recognize there is still a lot of work to be done,” Mullen said.
As for the surge, it would be swell if Obama echoed that sentiment tonight. As for the work that needs to be done, however, we should be concerned if the following is applied too literally: “Meanwhile, he said the only thing that worries him now is the lack of a unity government — but that he expects one to form very soon. The military, he said, has no role to play in that regard, and the Iraqi military has remained neutral, he said.”
It is true that the selection of a new government is not the U.S. military’s job, but keeping the peace and acting as a spur to reach a deal certainly is. Moreover, U.S. civilian leaders should be there to cajole and mediate between competing groups.
The president could go a long way tonight in making all this clear to the American people, to the Iraqis, and to those who would benefit from mischief-making in what is, in essence, a petri dish for Muslim democracy.