The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Iraq: the light at the end of the tunnel

February 28, 2009

We’re just a few weeks from the 6th anniversary of the Iraq war — but the end is now clearly in sight. President Obama, earlier today:

Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end.

Even better, as Obama told U.S. troops: “mission [kinda] accomplished.”

We sent our troops to Iraq to do away with Saddam Hussein’s regime – and you got the job done. We kept our troops in Iraq to help establish a sovereign government – and you got the job done. And we will leave the Iraqi people with a hard-earned opportunity to live a better life – that is your achievement; that is the prospect that you have made possible.

In other portions of the speech, Obama described the circumstances that would justify the use of American military power in the future.

He didn’t acknowledge being limited by an “Iraq syndrome,” but he did suggest relative restraint:

as long as I am your Commander-in-Chief, I promise you that I will only send you into harm’s way when it is absolutely necessary, and provide you with the equipment and support you need to get the job done.

Right now, the White House reportedly says that the US will leave 35 to 50,000 troops in Iraq after combat troops are removed. I haven’t heard just how many private military forces will remain.

Another ambiguity: Obama has not fully renounced the Bush Doctrine.

If he had been elected president, Joe Biden apparently would have made his opposition quite clear. But Obama perhaps wishes to benefit from ambiguity (a threat that leaves something to chance?) — and that may well be the pragmatic route.

+ posts

Rodger A. Payne is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Louisville. He serves on the University’s Sustainability Council and was a co-founder of the Peace, Conflict, and Social Justice program. He is the author of dozens of journal articles and book chapters and coauthor, with Nayef Samhat, of Democratizing Global Politics: Discourse Norms, International Regimes, and Political Community (SUNY, 2004). He is currently working on two major projects, one exploring the role of narratives in international politics and the other examining the implications of America First foreign policy.