The current crisis in Iraq is no more just an Iraqi problem than it has ever been. The U.S. military destroyed Iraq's government and all institutions able to keep civil order. It designated itself an "occupying force," thereby accepting the responsibility to restore and maintain such order. And yet U.S. Central Command never actually made establishing order and security a priority. Its commander throughout the insurgency, Gen. John Abizaid, has instead repeatedly declared that America's role is primarily to train Iraqi forces to put down their own rebellion and maintain order.It is indeed hard to disagree with any of that. But then Kagan continues:
By allowing violence and disorder to spread throughout the country, the Bush administration has broken faith with the Iraqi people and ignored its responsibilities. It has placed U.S. security in jeopardy by creating the preconditions for the sort of terrorist safe haven the president repeatedly warns about and by demonstrating that no ally can rely on America to be there when it counts.
A rapid U.S. withdrawal would lead to catastrophe in Iraq. The presence of American troops is vital to restraining Iraqi soldiers -- the Iraqis know not to participate in death squad activities when Americans are around. The fact that large numbers of U.S. troops are not embedded with the Iraqi police is a main reason for the participation of those forces in the killings. When the U.S. troops go, the Iraqi army will probably go the same way.
Nor is there any likelihood that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will be able to simultaneously accomplish all the tasks now demanded of him, especially without American help. These include reforming the Interior Ministry and the police, disarming Shiite militias, fighting Sunni Arab insurgents, establishing functioning local and regional governments connected to the central government, and rooting out corruption. What are his chances if U.S. forces leave, sectarian violence rises and Iraqis grow ever more pessimistic about the success of their democratic experiment?The problem with this is that there is increasing evidence that al-Maliki is willing or able to do the job with or without an American presence. We this just today:
Defiant Iraqi PM disavows timetable
BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. and Iraqi forces raided the stronghold of a Shiite militia led by a radical anti-American cleric in search of a death squad leader in an operation disavowed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.More from Kagan:
Al-Maliki, who relies on political support from the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, said the strike against a figure in al-Sadr's Mahdi militia in Sadr City "will not be repeated."
The defiant al-Maliki also slammed the top U.S. military and diplomatic representatives in Iraq for saying his government needed to set a timetable to curb violence in the country. At a news conference Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said al-Maliki had agreed.
"I affirm that this government represents the will of the people and no one has the right to impose a timetable on it," al-Maliki said at a news conference.
But what if even then Iraqis cannot accomplish the goals we have set for them? Can we then declare that, by establishing the Iraqi army and helping Iraq elect and establish its government, we have done all that honor requires?I think it's safe to say that the Iraqis "cannot accomplish the goals we have set for them" without an American presence but it is becoming obvious they can't with an American presence either.
No, we can't. Both honor and our vital national interest require establishing conditions in Iraq that will allow the government to consolidate and maintain civil peace and good governance. It doesn't matter how many "trained and ready" Iraqi soldiers there are, nor how many provinces are nominally under Iraqi control. If America withdraws its forces before setting the conditions for the success of the Iraqi government, we will have failed in our mission and been defeated in the eyes of our enemies. We will have dishonored ourselves.
Will it be a disaster when the Americans leave? The answer is yes. It will be a disaster for the Iraqi people and destabilize the region. On the ground that is happening already and the US cannot control the situation. The US has reached the point where it can't fulfill it's responsibilities to the Iraqi people and yes it will appear that the US has been defeated. That will be George W. Bush's legacy.