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babylonsister Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-03-10 07:56 AM
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Matthew Yglesias: The War's End
The War's End

The Obama administration's policy of disengagement has succeeded as spectacularly as the Bush administration's policy of invasion failed.

Matthew Yglesias | September 2, 2010 | web only


A perhaps true end for the war is currently scheduled for December of 2011 when all troops are set to be withdrawn. Still, nobody knows for sure what will happen if Iraqi leaders fail to reach a peaceful accord on how to form a new governing coalition. But to the extent to which this "end" to the war is in part a product of political spin, it's also a clear demonstration of the fact that the Obama administration's policy of disengagement has succeeded as spectacularly as the Bush administration's policy of invasion failed.

And it's important to recall the scope of that failure. The war was initially framed primarily in terms of the need to halt an Iraqi nuclear-weapons program that didn't exist. Given that there are no benefits to halting a nonexistent program, any price would be too high. So, naturally, justifications began to shift in a more humanitarian direction -- the invasion was needed to spread freedom.

But as Matt Duss, Peter Juul, and Brian Katulis observed in a May "Iraq War Ledger" report, for a humanitarian endeavor, the human cost of the invasion was terrifyingly high.
Many Iraqis are better-off than they were under Saddam Hussein's rule, but around 100,000 Iraqi civilians perished in the violence the war unleashed. About 10,000 members of the Iraqi security forces we trained died. Nobody seems to know exactly how many Iraqis were wounded, but we had seven serious injuries for every U.S. fatality, so we can guess on the presence of many tens of thousands of maimed Iraqi civilians.

And then there are the refugees -- 1.9 million displaced internationally and 2.6 million internally displaced. All this at a direct budgetary cost of somewhere over $1 trillion dollars. In strategic terms, the invasion led to years of underinvestment in Afghanistan's stability and has mostly served to increase the regional power of Iran.

Against this backdrop, the policy of disengagement from Iraq over the past 18 months has been a stunning success. Not because it's solved all of Iraq's problems -- it hasn't -- but because it's solved one of America's biggest problems since the war began, the continued pouring of resources into a mission that lacked clear rationale. At some point in 2004 or 2005, the adventure became essentially self-justifying. Troops needed to stay in Iraq long enough to salvage some kind of outcome that would somehow justify the decision to invade in the first place. But there's simply no redeeming an irredeemable mission. The country, however, was trapped into a polarizing debate about "winning" or "losing" a war in which conservatives refused to admit "defeat." But occupying a medium-sized politically divided country whose population is hostile to your presence is a game you only win by refusing to play.

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