The Magazine

Is Iraq Lost?

Things fall apart . . .

Jan 2, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 16 • By FREDERICK W. KAGAN and KIMBERLY KAGAN
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We can relitigate the wisdom of the invasion, the course of the war, the success of the surge, and other important questions endlessly, but one thing should be perfectly plain. From the moment U.S. forces left Iraq, President Barack Obama owned the policy and its outcome. Yet the administration has never articulated a strategy or policy for Iraq after the withdrawal. It has focused on spinning the collapse of both U.S.-Iraqi negotiations and the Iraqi political settlements as success, and on throwing all responsibility for whatever happens next in Iraq on the Iraqis, who—the administration never tires of reminding us—are sovereign. Iraq is, indeed, a sovereign state, although possibly not for much longer if trends toward state collapse continue, and Maliki bears personal responsibility for his own actions and decisions. But Iraq’s sovereignty and Maliki’s personal responsibility do not eliminate Amerian interests in Iraq or relieve the administration of the obligation to pursue them. 

Like it or not, the timing of the moves against Hashimi et al. upon Maliki’s return from Washington has created a perception in Iraq that these actions were authorized by Washington. The United States must counter that perception publicly and privately.

Further, the administration must recognize that a return to the status quo ante is not tenable or desirable. Maliki has gone too far down his current path; besides, the political arrangement that emerged after the elections of 2010 was always fraught with problems. Now, Maliki has shown his true colors. If the president and his administration admit this, they may see policy options they previously hadn’t considered or weren’t willing to employ.

Kimberly Kagan is president of the Institute for the Study of War.
Frederick W. Kagan is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and director of AEI’s Critical Threats Project.

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