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'Obama's Tragic Iraq Withdrawal'

8:08 AM, Oct 31, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Max Boot, writing in the Wall Street Journal

Friday afternoon is a traditional time to bury bad news, so at 12:49 p.m. on Oct. 21 President Obama strode into the White House briefing room to "report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year—after nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over." He acted as though this represented a triumph, but it was really a defeat. The U.S. had tried to extend the presence of our troops past Dec. 31. Why did we fail?

The popular explanation is that the Iraqis refused to provide legal immunity for U.S. troops if they are accused of breaking Iraq's laws. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki himself said: "When the Americans asked for immunity, the Iraqi side answered that it was not possible. The discussions over the number of trainers and the place of training stopped. Now that the issue of immunity was decided and that no immunity to be given, the withdrawal has started."

But Mr. Maliki and other Iraqi political figures expressed exactly the same reservations about immunity in 2008 during the negotiation of the last Status of Forces Agreement. Indeed those concerns were more acute at the time because there were so many more U.S. personnel in Iraq—nearly 150,000, compared with fewer than 50,000 today. So why was it possible for the Bush administration to reach a deal with the Iraqis but not for the Obama administration?

Quite simply it was a matter of will: President Bush really wanted to get a deal done, whereas Mr. Obama did not. Mr. Bush spoke weekly with Mr. Maliki by video teleconference. Mr. Obama had not spoken with Mr. Maliki for months before calling him in late October to announce the end of negotiations. Mr. Obama and his senior aides did not even bother to meet with Iraqi officials at the United Nations General Assembly in September.

Whole thing here.

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