Back on Oct. 21, when President Obama announced he would withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of the year, he reassured the world the U.S. would still stay deeply engaged in Iraq. “This will be a strong and enduring partnership,” he promised. “With our diplomats and civilian advisers in the lead, we’ll help Iraqis strengthen institutions that are just, representative and accountable. We’ll build new ties of trade and of commerce, culture and education, that unleash the potential of the Iraqi people. We’ll partner with an Iraq that contributes to regional security and peace, just as we insist that other nations respect Iraq’s sovereignty.”
That was then, this is now. Today, the New York Times reports: “Less than two months after American troops left, the State Department is preparing to slash by as much as half the enormous diplomatic presence it had planned for Iraq, a sharp sign of declining American influence in the country.”
So much for a “strong and enduring partnership” that has “our diplomats and civilian advisers in the lead.” Those of us who argued for a continuing military presence were deeply skeptical the State Department would actually be able to main a mission of some 2,000 diplomatic personnel supported by an army of 15,000 or so contractors. The size of the task they faced was just too huge, and the State Department lacks the resources the military can bring to the task. Sure enough, the U.S. embassy has been having trouble stocking its vast chow hall and getting its personnel outside its fortified walls.
The giant State Department presence we were promised was always a fig leaf covering our shameful abandonment of a country where so many Americans have sacrificed so much. The only surprise is the fig leaf is being yanked away quite so soon to expose the nakedness of the administration’s policy failure.