Steve Conn: Goodbye Baghdad!





[Steve Conn is a history professor at The Ohio State University.]


Today the last American combat troops left Iraq, nearly 7.5 years after Bush/Cheney launched this military fiasco. There is no measure of this war that makes anything other than an unalloyed disaster with few parallels in American history - not the number of deaths and injuries, the $2 trillion spent on it, nor the way it has weakened the American position in the region and the world.

The Obama Administration deserves - and will surely not get - a great deal of credit for fulfilling this campaign promise. After all, even as Obama may be sinking us deeper in Afghani quicksand, he resisted calls to abandon his original timeline in Iraq.

Violence has subsided in Iraq and a measure of stability has returned, but in fact the country remains a basket case and will be that way for some time. The troop escalation - the so-called "surge" - led by Gen. David Petreaus (to whom George Bush more or less abdicated his role as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces in 2007) deserves some credit for this.

But the surge was always intended to create enough safe space for the Iraqis to come up with a long-term political resolution to the civil war of 2004-07. That, clearly, has not yet happened. Politics has ground to a halt in Iraq months now after the elections. There is still no real government now in Baghdad, and none on the horizon.

Some while ago I suggested the right analogy for the Iraq war was not Vietnam, but Cambodia. There, after the United States contributed to the destablization of the country, the country descended into a fratricidal, genocidal civil war, brought to an end - ironies of ironies - when the Vietnamese invaded and restored some order.

American combat troops are not necessary for whatever may happen in Iraq going forward and it is long past time for them to come home. Let's hope Obama is demonstrates similar resolution with his timetable to get American troops out of Afghanistan.

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