A Development of Profound Significance

The Iraqi Ambassador to the U.S. writes an instructive column in the Washington Post which includes this:

Those who had descended upon Iraq to defeat the United States through terrorism, initially finding favor and support from the “rejectionists,” have themselves been rejected by the Iraqi people. Their strategy to ignite a sectarian civil war has failed. And though they still pose a threat to security, those extremist Islamists were comprehensively and strategically defeated in a Muslim country, a development of profound significance.

And, he adds, the elections have given lie to the argument that “Iraqis could not comprehend democracy and therefore could not abide by its rules.” He nevertheless is not pushing American troops out so quickly. Rather, he argues that “the continued engagement of the United States in Iraq will be vital to ensuring that what has been achieved is not jeopardized, though the emphasis will inevitably shift from military issues to economic and diplomatic matters.”

This should be an easily embraceable formulation for the Obama administration: 1) The elections were a success; 2) The violence has diminished but the U.S. still has a critical role to play; and 3) The risk and cost of a precipitous withdrawal can easily be avoided by, as the Ambassador describes,  “joint consultantions” in accord with the status of forces agreement to determine the appropriate speed of the drawn down of forces. Hopefully, when the full machinery of the Obama foreign policy team is up and running the Ambassador’s comments will be echoed by U.S. officials.

There is a natural inclination, especially by those who opposed both the war and the surge, to be done with Iraq and “move on.” But now that the casuality rate has plunged, the central task has changed from anti-insurgency activities to peacekeeping. With the end point in sight, it should be far easier to be patient — which we have learned can pay off provided you ignore the vicissitudes of domestic political opinion.