I’ve spent some of tonight watching the live coverage of our last combat troops leaving Iraq. Of course, we are leaving about 50,000 soldiers there (“military consultants” … kinda reminds me of the “military adviser” jargon in the early days of Vietnam) but I can accept that. It’s an acknowledgment that terrorism is still a problem there and some anti-terrorist presence is called for.
I didn’t like this war. Many didn’t. Iraq is still far from ideal. However, we’ve got some indisputable facts to celebrate tonight. First, the “surge” turned things around. It did not achieve its stated goal of giving the Iraqi government breathing room to clean up their act. The government is still shaky at best. But the mere increase in troops smacked down the enemy and allowed Iraqi forces to get a bit better at protecting their own. Without the surge, we wouldn’t be able to leave today.
Second, working with the Iraqi government, Bush committed to get us out of there. He agreed to a timetable of sorts, one which Barack Obama has made good on. One might go so far as to say Bush fought the wrong war the right way.
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So now we wait and see what happens next. If in the next five to ten years Iraq emerges as a democracy it will be a grand victory directly traceable to George W. Bush. We will probably all acknowledge that the false pretense that got us into the war mattered less than the outcome, a democracy in a region badly in need of democracy.
I would hate to think the past seven years were a complete waste. So let’s hope that Iraq can keep its act together. And regardless of what happens, let’s pause to welcome our troops back home and honor the memory of those who were not so lucky to see this day of withdrawal.