Those were some pretty astonishing statements that President Obama made after his meeting in Washington with Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq: He said that “what we have now achieved is an Iraq that is self-governing, that is inclusive and that has enormous potential.”
Only the last part of that sentence is true: Iraq does have “enormous potential”–both good and bad. It could become another opulent petrostate–or it could revert to a hellish state of civil war. Either is possible at this point because Iraq is only barely “self-governing” and its government is acting in ways that are less “inclusive” all the time–witness Maliki’s arrest of more than 600 people on vague charges of “Baathism.”
Obama’s happy talk is seriously at odds with reality–and I’m sure Obama knows it. He is only attempting to put his abandonment of Iraq in the best possible light.
In the process he is taking an enormous gamble, not only with the security of Iraq, the United States, and the entire Middle East but also with his own historical reputation. True, the pullout from Iraq is popular today. It won’t be so popular a year or two from now if the result of the U.S. pullout is greater instability or tyranny. Obama will then shoulder the bulk of the blame for messing up the end game of a war that he never supported.
I hope Obama’s optimism is vindicated. I really do. But there are many troubling signs which suggest that his statements this week could be remembered much as George W. Bush’s proclamation of “Mission Accomplished” is today.