You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

The End Of The Iraq Debate (for Now)

There are plenty of striking aspects to Obama's national security team: its diversity, its centrism, and the fact that Obama probably spent a good chunk of 2008 dreaming about the destruction of its most prominent member, a woman some of his supporters came to see as nothing less than a sociopath.

But maybe what's most interesting is how absent Iraq was from today's conversation.The tableau onstage illustrated the end of Iraq as a litmus test in Democratic politics. Hillary Clinton has apparently been forgiven for her war position by a Democratic left for which, just three years ago, there was almost no other issue. Joe Biden also voted for the war, even predicting that "it will go well." ("It may take a year," he allowed. "It may take two. It may take as many as 75,000 troops five years to secure victory in Iraq. It [may] cost 20 billion dollars more." Oops.) Meanwhile, although in 2005 James Jones called the war "a debacle," back in 2003 he seemed more concerned about troop strength than the wisdom of invading. And while Robert Gates is applauded by Democrats for his moderate approach, he was no war opponent either.

that month

But another Iraq debate may be around the corner. If America is very lucky, we  can remove our troops quickly without dramatic effects. (One analyst recently told me that the military is already experimenting with internal troop movements to see which areas of the country can accept less US security without a resulting backslide.) But it's quite possible--maybe even likely--that withdrawal will prompt a renewed and violent power struggle that could devolve into civil war. And then it will be time for another debate--about whether to slow down the exit or say good riddance once and for all. It's possible that Obama is determined to carry out his withdrawal policy even in such a scenario. But his cabinet selections tend to suggest otherwise.

--Michael Crowley