The Dillard Doctrine

Urban Conservative Commentary on Politics & Life

“Mission Accomplished”…Again?

In this battle, we have fought for the cause of liberty, and for the peace of the world. Our nation and our coalition are proud of this accomplishment — yet it is you, the members of the United States military, who achieved it. Your courage — your willingness to face danger for your country and for each other — made this day possible. Because of you, our nation is more secure. Because of you, the tyrant has fallen, and Iraq is free. President Bush, 2003

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.  President Obama, Feb. 27, 2009

So, President Obama’s given his “Mission Accomplished” speech…as well as laid out his plans for our withdrawal from Iraq.

The big question now: who won the war? Was it Bush, or will Obama take-or be handed-the credit?

First, some analysis:

President Obama intends to pull all of the combat troops out of Iraq by August 31, 2010, if conditions on the ground permit. He then wants to keep 35-50,000 support personnel there through the expiration of our security agreement in 2011.

This isn’t a bad plan, keeping in mind that Iraqi elections of late have been potential flash points, and that there’s more elections scheduled for the end of this year. The Iraqi security forces kept the peace through the first elections earlier this year; if they can hold it through the remaining ones, it will be a great testament to their progress. If I had to guess, I’d expect:

  • The forces that were scheduled to leave Iraq this year will leave, and not be replaced,
  • The majority of the withdrawal will take place between February-June 2010. Most of these forces will either head to Afghanistan or overseas bases where they can be “surged” (yeah, THAT again) back to Iraq if there’s a flareup.

Assuming security holds, I’d expect a force of about 40-45,000 troops left in country. That’s probably about the smallest possible that can support logistics and advisory duties, as well as support Iraqi forces in a crisis if requested.

My understanding is that the ground commanders-GENs Petraeus and Odierno-can live with this plan. It gets them enough of a force to deal with any problems should they arise, and gives them the latitude to recommend stopping/slowing the withdrawal if things get out of hand.

Back to the question at hand: which president is responsible for our victory in Iraq?

The original goal of the surge of 2007 was to buy the Iraqis space and time to build their government and security forces so that they could hold their country and we could begin to withdraw. Call it “return on success,” as President Bush did in September 2007:

The principle guiding my decisions on troop levels in Iraq is “return on success.” The more successful we are, the more American troops can return home. And in all we do, I will ensure that our commanders on the ground have the troops and flexibility they need to defeat the enemy.

Apparently, President Obama feels that we’ve been successful enough to bring just about everyone back. That success, however, does not belong to him.


There is a final question, and it’s one no one wants to ask.

If-between now and, say, February of next year-Iraq flares up again, or the Iranians begin to exert (more?) undue influence, does President Obama stop or slow the withdrawal on the advice of his ground commanders? Or, now committed, does he press forward regardless of the consequences here and abroad?

And if Iraq does take a turn, will President Obama be vilified as much as President Bush was for declaring “Mission Accomplished?”




Written by Coby Dillard

February 28, 2009 at 11:08 am

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