November 04, 2011

Three Views on the United States and Iraq

I want to highlight three op-eds on the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. The first is by Brett McGurk, an early supporter within the Bush Administration for the "Surge" who later helped negotiate the 2008 Status of Forces Agreement. (People in position to know about such things often credit McGurk, along with fellow NSC staffer Elissa Slotkin, as having been the U.S. official most responsible for the successful 2008 negotiations.) McGurk argues forcefully and persuasively against those -- such as Fred and Kim Kagan or Max Boot -- who have argued that an extension of U.S. forces in Iraq was possible or that Iran has won (and Obama has lost) the Iraq War:

[Our] trying to force an agreement through the Iraqi parliament would have been self-destructive. That had nothing to do with Iran and everything to do with Iraqi pride, history and nationalism. Even the most staunchly anti-Iranian Iraqi officials refused to publicly back a residual U.S. force — and in the end, they supported our withdrawal.

McGurk, bear in mind, is an interested party here, so caveat lector. All the same, knowing his reputation and experience, I trust the narrative he advances. Reidar Visser, meanwhile, argues that Chris Hill was the U.S. official most responsible for "losing" Iraq. I loudly voiced my own objections to Hill's appointment in 2009, but I am not sure I completely buy Reidar's arguments. Still, Reidar is an incredibly knowledgeable scholar on Iraq whose opinions are always grounded in fact and careful investigations.

Which brings us to the final op-ed, which I am only including because it highlights what a predictably partisan clown Charles Krauthammer has become in his advanced years. Krauthammer knows Iraq about as well as I know Washoe basketweaving traditions.* That doesn't stop him from weighing in, though, with typically thunderous certainty, about how the president lost the Iraq War. It's enough to have made Steve Metz wonder over Twitter whether or not Krauthammer is a secret Washington Post plot to discredit serious conservative thought. 

*To clarify, I know nothing about Washoe basketweaving traditions. I'm sure they are great, though.