The Iraq War Is Over

Of course, not really. But Obama’s August deadline for the end of the war has passed and now all the U.S. troops are no longer “combat” forces but rather “transition forces.” Similarly, next July there is supposed to be a drawdown in Afghanistan—but who can believe it will be any more than some cosmetic change? Moreover, in Iraq the U.S. has another deadline next year “etched in stone,” but what does that mean? The State Department is pushing for its own military footprint in Iraq, and Obama has said very little about the permanent bases and contractors. The U.S. presence in both nations will continue until the natives force out the occupying troops, the U.S. runs out of money, or the American people demand a full withdrawal and make clear to politicians they will tolerate no less. Can we expect anything like this to happen?

More than six years ago, the U.S. government was talking about handing Iraq off to the Iraqis so American forces could leave. I called out the administration then in an Institute op-ed “The Iraqization Scam.” This was a couple years before pundits and policy wonks began calling the U.S. policy “Iraqization.” But now it looks like even I was optimistic, as cynical as I was about actual U.S. intentions to leave the country and region. It appears the U.S. will continue to occupy both Iraq and Afghanistan for the indefinite future, seeing as how the Mr. Nobel Peace Prize is in charge of the wars and, although more Americans want the U.S. to leave, it seems fewer are adamant about it as a political priority.

Remember when John McCain said we might stay in Iraq for 100 years? That was over two years ago. The Democrats had a field day. But now their president is securely on the McCainian path in Iraq. And now, with some defenders of the war citing Korea as an example of a supposedly successful war from which the U.S. never really withdrew, I have to worry. Will a heavy-handed and deadly U.S. occupation of the Middle East become a permanent fixture of the U.S. political landscape? Again, perhaps only running out of money will end the madness. The empire and welfare state, if they have a silver lining, at least contain the seeds of their own destruction, however tragically gradual.

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