This wasn't something the people of that region pined for. These are lands that crave the protection of a dominant foreign power as they feign outrage at its exercise. Nor was it decreed by the objective facts of American power, for this country still possesses all the ingredients of influence and prestige. It was, rather, a decision made in the course of the Obama presidency--the ebb of our power has become a self-fulfilling prophesy.
America was never meant to stay in Iraq indefinitely. In all fairness to President Obama, he had ridden the disappointment with Iraq from the state legislature in Illinois to the White House. He was not a pacifist, he let it be known. He did not oppose all wars. It was only "dumb" wars he was against. In every way he could, he kept Iraq at arm's length. He never partook of the view that we had secured strategic gains in that country worth preserving. It was thus awkward to watch the president on Monday, with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki by his side, explaining as we exit that "We think a successful, democratic Iraq can be a model for the entire region." The words rang hollow.
A president who understood the stakes would have had no difficulty justifying a residual American presence in Iraq. But not this president. At the core of Mr. Obama's worldview lies a pessimism about America and the power of its ideals and reach in the world.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Fouad Ajami about America's exit from Iraq in the Wall Street Journal: