Combat Operations Have Ended, Again


by Patrick Appel

Bernstein asks why liberals don't trust Obama on Iraq:

Case in point is the news that the last of the "combat troops" have left Iraq.  Now, those reluctant to celebrate this development certainly have strong grounds for doing so, with 50K troops remaining, plus private security forces and civilians, so more American casualties are certain (although the pace seems to have slowed again in the last couple months).  And I can certainly understand a reluctance to celebrate a retreat, even if it's orderly and good policy (as Obama's supporters presumably believe). ...

[But it] does strike me that few liberals, at least few liberals who are speaking up right now, really appear to trust that Obama on Iraq.  I'm not sure why -- is it because of Obama's policy in Afghanistan?  The disappointment of 2007, when a Democratic victory in 2006 failed to produce rapid results?  The residue of Obama's defeat on Gitmo?  His other policies on secrecy and rule-of-law issues?  Something inherent in liberals when it comes to trusting even liberal pols?  I don't know, and perhaps I'm reading things that aren't there, but I just don't see much trust there.  Support, yes, when he does something  they like, and perhaps even general support.  But trust?  Not really. 

Opponents of the war, myself included, tend to trust very few – if any – politicians when it comes to the Iraq war. The reasons Jonathan Bernstein lists are part of it, but this distrust has less to do with Obama and more to do with politicians, both Republican and Democrat, consistently bending the truth on Iraq. McCain's latest declaration of victory is as good an example as any of exaggerated success. The Onion has more along these lines. It's extremely difficult to unwind a war once we've established the sort of footprint we had in Iraq. In that context, the draw down thus far has been more than impressive, but in a war marked by rhetorical victories ("Major combat operations in Iraq have ended", etc) it's hard to summon much enthusiasm for the declaration that the last "combat troops" have left, especially when 50,000 soldiers remain on the ground. Here's Captain Hyphen:

Those advisers are likely to continue to patrol the streets with Iraqi units in the embedded Military Transition Teams (MiTTs – at least that was the term when I was last there), and the United States isn’t going to commit 4,500 SOF solely for the training mission. There will still be counter-terrorism operations in coordination with the Iraqis that could also result in American casualties.

As Eli Lake notes, there were more than 144,000 troops in Iraq when Obama entered office. Cutting that number to 50,000 is a tremendous success. But that accomplishment doesn't redeem the Iraq War – no matter how much Sen. McCain would like to think so.