Iraq: Leaving Too Soon?

Last week the nation got an object lesson in the price of the years the administration has wasted in its passive attitude towards addressing the nation’s most critical nation security risks.
In the Middle East, President Obama trumpeted the final withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. This decision seems reckless in the extreme. The US is withdrawing the “safety net,” endangering the gains made after years of effort for no other apparent reason than to bolster the president’s popularity with his base for his reelection bid. Indeed, almost immediately after the US troops left squabbling among political leaders began.
What makes the president’s course of action so dangerous is the vacuum in Iraq leaves more opportunity for aggression from Iran. The President has wasted most of his presidency trying to engage the odious regime in Iran to no avail. Now, he decides to pull out the US troops from Iraq compounding his failure to deal with Iran.
As for Iraq, the administration may well find itself grasping defeat from the jaws of victory. As Heritage regional expert Jim Phillips writes, “[u]nfortunately, the Obama Administration’s failure to negotiate an extension of the U.S. military presence past the December 31 deadline set by the 2008 status of forces agreement means that the Iraqi government will be in a much weaker position to fight terrorism and prevent the resumption of a sectarian civil war. The sudden withdrawal of substantial U.S. military, intelligence, logistical, and training support will undermine the capabilities of Iraq’s security forces.”
On the other end of the world, the result of the president’s dithering on key national security issues was equally apparent. The US woke up after the weekend to find the “great leader” in North Korea was gone, passing on the mantle of leadership to his young son, plunging the region into great uncertainty over the fallout of the transition. The White House has done virtually nothing to effectively prepare for this—having accomplished little to contain the North Korean threat over the last three years. Heritage scholar Bruce Klingner notes the “transition is fraught with uncertainty, nervousness, and potential danger.”
For the week, President Obama gets a grade of “D” for dithering on the tough issues. Here is hoping things go better in the new year—though his track record over the last three years gives little cause for optimism. Contributing Editor James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., is a leading expert in defense affairs, intelligence, and strategy, military operations and homeland security at the Heritage Foundation.

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James Jay Carafano, a leading expert in national security and foreign policy challenges, is The Heritage Foundation’s Vice President, Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, E. W. Richardson Fellow, and Director of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies.

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