Monday, March 8, 2010

Time to Go

Iraqis went to the voting booth on Sunday for national elections. They were to select a new parliament and potentially a new prime minister. After a morning rife with explosions and some death, the cities quieted and the citizens reportedly voted in droves. There are no early reports of widespread fraud, no reports of voter intimidation (save the bombings), and now the country waits for the results. Even reading about it in the New York Times this morning, it just sounded kind of mundane, normal. Sure there was violence, but it was limited and desperate. Perhaps more remarkably the Iraqi people saw the violence for what it was, a desperate attempt by a marginalized insurgency to derail through violence Iraq's path to democracy. The public didn't buy it.

So now what? I think it's time to go. I'm not alone in this and I'm not going to set a timeline, but if things keep progressing the way they have I see no reason for us to stay for two main reasons. First, there is a democratic Iraq, even if it's a shaky democracy. Second, despite the fact that it's shaky there is almost nothing the US can do to make it any less shaky.

The successful vote will be followed by protracted jockeying for a ruling coalition. Many people put these post elections negotiations in terms of months, not days. That said, there isn't a major concern of violence with regard to the negotiations, at least not the kind of sectarian violence that lead Iraq to the edge of civil war in 2006. Iraq will remain a shaky democracy for some time, but there's little we can do about that.

We have toppled a government, botched reconstruction, lost the people we tried to liberate, and yet were able to correct course and helped create a viable, if not thriving democracy in Iraq. What is left to do? If this isn't victory, what is? Sure there are areas of concern, but they aren't our concerns in any direct way. We have done enough, spent enough, spilled enough blood to give Iraq a chance.

We went in for specious reasons. We fumbled, repeatedly, reconstruction. We lost the lives of American servicemen and women in a war that was and is not tied directly to our national security. And yet, now, seven years on, from all the missteps, mistakes, and misdirection we can leave Iraq politically better then we found it. We've done all we can. It's time to go.

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