Obama and the Iraqi Reality

Obama’s campaign rhetoric about Iraq – like all leftwing rhetoric about Iraq – was entirely divorced from reality. Now Obama will have to deal with reality – and the betting is that he’ll adhere to reality, as opposed to leftwing propaganda:

…in a near-unanimous vote, the Iraqi cabinet approved a security agreement that will keep American forces in Iraq through the end of 2011. The Iraqi parliament is likely to pass the agreement before the assembly goes into recess November 24.

What does this mean for the incoming American administration? What happens to the claim that Barack Obama’s drawdown plan was consonant with the hopes of the Iraqi leadership? The agreement calls for American troops to be in Iraq for three more years. That’s 36 months – more than twice the length of time Obama has proposed troops stay in the country.

Nevertheless, President Obama will heed the new reality.

There is far too much resting on the successful fulfillment of this agreement for Obama to defy it. For starters, it is a watershed moment for American-Iraqi relations and Iraqi sovereignty. At last, all the talk about American strings controlling the actions of a puppet regime can be retired. We went in; we didn’t leave; and we respected the wishes of the new regime. Any scoffing at the legitimacy of Iraq’s constitutional government is a thing of the past. It’s very important for Iraq that its neighbors see a burgeoning Arab democracy negotiating seriously and competently with Washington. It is further evidence of the possibilities engendered by consensual government. Tearing up a cooperative agreement so delicately arrived at would go down as a diplomatic and geopolitical travesty for the Obama administration — proving, as it would, that America’s talk of freedom and democracy is piffle.

Obama could, of course, entirely toss aside common sense and still demand a quick and total US withdrawal – but Obama is already proving himself someone unwilling to make actual decisions, so he’ll probably just lean on Bush’s decisions vis a vis Iraq and coast along…which will be better for the US than doing the wrong thing, but not as good as if we were getting a President willing to take hard and unpopular decisions in the advancement of good policy.

Having a democratic and allied Iraq will, in and of itself, give us great leverage over the mullahs who rule Iran, but the leverage is only going to exist so long as Iran’s leaders think that Obama will actually use force, if pressed to it. The advantage Obama will have is that, thanks to President Bush, Iran is bracketed east, west and south with American and allied power – it will take a major amount of Iranian courage to even work up a genuine challenge to America. But if the challenge comes, we’re well placed to meet it provided President Obama keeps our power at strength in Iraq and Afghanistan.