The Irrelevance of Iraq

More

While traveling in Turkey this morning, Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggested that Iraq troop withdrawal could be accelerated. Some 5,000 American troops could come home because violence levels in the country were generally down and Iraqi security forces were doing well on their own. Two brigades, or about 10,000 troops, are to be withdrawn from Iraq by this year and Gates said it was possible one more brigade, or 5,000 troops, could come home, too. What's amazing is how little this orderly withdrawal seems to be benefiting the Obama administration. Of course, with an economy still in turmoil and a renewed commitment to Afghanistan and a push for universal health care, the fate of 5,000 troops coming home early is bound to get lost in the shuffle. Still, this is a case where the administration is doing what it said it would do and it's all going pretty well--not withstanding the spasms of violence that continue to plague Iraq.

It's as if Iraq is fading quickly from national memory. Yes, "The Hurt Locker," the documentary about Iraq bomb detonators, gets rave reviews and the plight of Iraq War veterans remains an important issue. But as an issue of national attention Iraq has fallen off the radar in a way one couldn't have imagined in 2006, when it dominated the mid-term election and helped set the stage for the Obama victory in the following election cycle. Now Iraq feels increasingly irrelevant in electoral life. Obama wasn't asked about it at his last two press conferences.

Wars have tended to upend American life in ways large and small. World War I popularized the cigarette and the wristwatch--and sped the migration of African Americans north and expanded America's role in the world. Vietnam cracked the social order. But it's hard to see what social impact the Iraq war will have had on America now that it's not even much of a topic of conversation.

Let me say, I realize that for the families of those in Iraq and those involved in prosecuting the war, Iraq remains the central focus of their lives. I just mean as a country, Iraq has largely faded from view as Secretary Gates's comments remind us this morning.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Matthew Cooper is a managing editor (White House) for National Journal.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What Is the Greatest Story Ever Told?

A panel of storytellers share their favorite tales, from the Bible to Charlotte's Web.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In