President Barack Obama would like to see all combat troops out by the summer of 2010, and any remaining U.S. troops would have to leave Iraq by the end of 2011 per the security agreement approved by the Iraqi cabinet on Sunday. The second largest coalition contingent, the 4,000 or so British troops stationed in southern Iraq, will go home (or to Afghanistan) by the end of 2009, according to recent revelations by the Iraqi government.
Some may worry that Iraq’s security forces cannot handle the challenges of keeping law and order within these time frames, but I disagree. The Iraqis don’t need to meet the standards of the world’s most sophisticated military—that of the U.S. armed forces—to take on a much depleted, and essentially broken, insurgency. And organized crime franchises and corruption can be dealt with through good old fashioned police work.
I certainly would like to see Iraq armed with the best that technology has to offer, and its officer corps trained at the world’s most prestigious academies, but in lieu of that, having coalition forces leave is a welcome development in of itself.
Why? Because the silver lining here, one would hope, is that the vast bulk of the estimated 1,800 strong contingent of coalition bureaucrats (diplomats and spies), as well as the media bureaus, will pack up and leave too; the damage done to the New Iraq by their missteps and malice is staggering, so good riddance to all that.
By way of example, no more shall some middling bureaucrat play kingmaker to his or her most obsequious client. The British in Basra and Amara were the worst at this, and it got so bad at one point that they even ceded power to those, such as the Sadrists, who were taking potshots at their troops. The British also engineered the rise of a hitherto unknown protÃ©gÃ© of theirs into the governorship of Basra, only to watch him turn into a hated and corrupt regional figurehead of a dying Islamist party. Their latest project is turning the Minister of Interior, Jawad al-Bolani, another Islamist, into a national figure by taking a good idea, that of community policing, and turning it into the minister’s personal patronage pyramid of jobs, contracts and eventually, political intimidation. The first batch of these “community policemen” is graduating in a couple of days.
And no more shall some reporter take out his or her aggravation over the Florida recount on whatever signs of progress emerging in Iraq, claiming scandal where there is none, and despair where the opposite is true. These negative headlines invariably sent a Bush administration official into a tizzy, shooting cables to Baghdad undoing whatever baby steps were being taken in the right direction.
In other words, Iraq’s destiny and progress will no longer be micromanaged by the inept and insecure bureaucracies of Washington, and their franchises in Baghdad’s Green Zone, and it shall not be gauged and ridiculed by an embittered press corps. This is especially reassuring given that many of the newcomers in the Obama administration are revved up about ‘fixing’ Iraq—a contribution most unwelcome given what we’ve seen already.