Something I shoulda emphasized on Friday after the Iraq announcement. Um, Obama shouldn't get credit for sticking with his campaign pledge of ending the Iraq war after trying and failing to keep a residual force behind. (Leaving aside the fact that the war isn't ending.)
For the president, the announcement followed through on his campaign promise to end the war.
But for the ambassador, it was something far different. Over the past year, the ambassador had labored intensely to reach a deal with the Iraqi government to keep a substantial number of troops here.
Mr. Jeffrey wanted the troops to stay because he believed the fledgling Iraqi military needed continual training from American troops. He knew that keeping troops in Iraq would push back on Iran’s influence in the region. And he believed the troops would help the State Department, which will have a massive presence here in years to come, get around a country where the security is still tenuous.
The whole piece is worth reading, especially for the delicious, delicious irony of Ahmed Chalabi explaining that a continued U.S. presence is a red line for the Iraqi political culture.
Another irony that's worth a brief comment. In 2007, the Bush administration undertook negotiations on a Status of Forces Agreement to maintain an enduring troop presence in Iraq. But the Iraqis in the room -- for the reasons Chalabi explained -- flipped the script and insisted that the SOFA become a mechanism for withdrawal, complete with the timetables that George W. Bush so hated. For reasons that are still opaque to me, Bush ultimately acquiesced. Years later, Obama sends the same diplomat Bush used, Brett McGurk, to undo the very timetable that he endorsed as a presidential candidate and used as political cover for withdrawal. McGurk can't do it -- for the reasons Chalabi explained! -- and so Obama is back saying he's fulfilling his promise.
We entered Iraq in a cynical, fraudulent way. It's only fitting that's how we leave it. (Or, I should say, "leave" it.)