Barack Obama's decision to pull the remaining American forces out of Iraq was both wise and courageous. Ignoring the war party in both his own administration and some elements in Republican ranks, Obama ended the eight-year conflict. Not only did he keep his promise, he showed that the United States had no imperial designs in Iraq. In the end, he conceded that only Iraqis could bring peace to their troubled country.
With the sole exception of Ron Paul whose principled position against the war brought many within the GOP to denounce him, Republicans aspirants advocated a permanent occupation. Iraq was bittersweet, on one hand a dictator, Saddam Hussein, was removed from power, but it was done at an enormous price in blood and treasure. Moreover the United States was distracted from larger foreign policy questions. Coupled with Afghanistan, the wars were played out in a world beset by economic and power shifts. China slowly became a semi-super power, Iran increased its influence and Europe experienced financial problems that easily overmatched America's.
Of course those voices that advocated conflict in 2003 are still pushing their grim agenda. Those "revolutions" that neo-conservatives so celebrated in the Middle East might only serve to bring darker forces to the fore. In Egypt, Islamists swept elections and Libya still remains a gigantic question mark. Hillary Clinton and her merry band of neo-liberal interventionists, egged on by Saudi Arabia advocate action in Syria and Iran. But Obama's decision on Iraq was most surely a defeat for the State Department. When the star hunter David Petraeus disagrees, it most assuredly works in Obama's favor. After the last troops left, the outcry of public opinion is "no more Iraqs."
It is as if John Kennedy had lived and pulled the plug on America's role in South Vietnam before things got worse. Obama wisely reading history acted and although it was not done with the speed many would have preferred he did keep his campaign promise. The constant deployments are at an end and some of our outstanding military personnel will be home by Christmas. They did their job even though the contractors and their hired security may have squandered the American military's best efforts.
There should be a lesson in all this, which is that the United States cannot engage in conflicts endlessly without consequences. America under George W. Bush got weaker every year that war was waged. Deficits grew and our greatest asset, our economy, was diminished. Perhaps Obama will speed up America's withdrawal out of Southwest Asia where the overuse of predator drones managed to alienate even those friendly to the United States. It is clear that Obama is slowly reversing the influence of the "neos" be they liberal or conservative.
The Iraq decision marked a turning point in the Obama presidency when he decided that he would not be pushed any longer down the road to intervention. Gone is the approach of trying to appease the unappeasable and instead standing for those things he truly believes in. Perhaps the drum beat of criticism finally backfired, and Obama simply said no more. Whatever occurred his first firm stances paid off, at least reassuring those who voted for him out of conviction.
But at least he can now contrast his vision with that of his opponents. The days of sometime wars for only some people participating are over. The boom for the Wall Street tycoons, with hefty bonuses and low tax rates may be at an end. Wantonly exploiting the honor and courage of America's army while a few devoured the great barbecue at taxpayer expense. Armchair generals and blustery hawks are no longer in fashion. Obama kept faith with the American people and deserves thanks for an act of courage.