Last week was obviously a big one for the US in the Middle East-North Africa, what with the death of Gaddafi and the formal announcement that the last US troops in Iraq would indeed leave by the end of this year. I'll add my two cents to the political back and forth that has been going on since then.
On Libya, I kind of enjoyed the bewilderment of Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, and others on the left that conservatives were not shouting hosannas to President Obama for killing Gaddafi. Stewart was particularly amusing as he wondered where the "gracious" attitude of the GOP was, as if he and the rest of his friends, including now-President Obama, were fountains of graciousness during the Bush years.
And what exactly deserves graciousness when it comes to Gaddafi's death? While Stewart and Co. were spiking the ball and snarking with glee, some video of the moments just before Gaddafi was executed by the mob that captured him became available on the internet. As evil as he was, I admit to feeling a moment of pity even for the likes of Gaddafi as what looked like confusion and terror played across his bloody face. That was tempered by the certain knowledge that thousands of victims of his regime faced the same terror and confusion in the knowledge of their imminent death. Still though, he was a human being and as we are constantly being lectured about from the left, he had rights that it was our duty to do everything possible to protect.
I can imagine the "gracious" words that George W. Bush would have received from those guys if Saddam Hussein had been captured and executed the same way Gaddafi was, only by a mob of Iraqi Kurds or Shiites.
That's only the tip of the iceberg of hypocrisy that Democrats have shown between the hypercriticism of the Bush years and the kid gloves with which they have treated Barry's totally awesome Libya adventure. Imagine a Republican going to war against an oil-producing Arab nation without Congressional approval. Sorry to be so cynical, but c'mon.
More: Gaddafi sodomized after capture? I don't know that the evidence is conclusive, but just what the hell is that guy doing? "We came, we saw, they stuck a knife up his ass, he died." There, fixed that for you Hillary.
On Iraq, Obama deserves the Bullshit Nation Award for his blatant lie that leaving completely was the outcome he desired. That after every top administration official with any skin in that game has been trying to negotiate a residual US force for the last six months. What a crock of you know what.
That said though, I don't think all of the criticism being hurled at Obama is valid. The Iranian bogeyman card is being played to the hilt again, this time by Republicans instead of Democrats, but it will likely prove as false as it ever has. And Iraqis will bow to reality in the near future and some sort of US training and intelligence arrangement, along with some sort of external defense pact for Iraq, will come into play.
Iran will always have some influence in Iraq, and vice versa. Partly because they are neighbors and partly because of shared Shiite ties. But if we have learned anything over the last eight and a half years, it's that Iraq is a complex web of ethnic, sectarian, tribal, and nationalist influences. Those influences will limit Iran in the future just as they have in the past.
For example, don't believe the hype around everybody's favorite scary Iranian toy, Muqtada al-Sadr. In reality, the man's a borderline retard living off the reputation of his deceased elders. His Mahdi Army and other Iranian sponsored militias have some dangerous members who have been trained in Iran, but the vast majority have all of the military skills and discipline of any street gang in Los Angeles. They got their collective ass kicked in 2004 and again in 2008. Iran can create some degree of havoc by arming and training Shiite militias, but there is no real constituency that wants to live under their rule and the existing Iraqi Security Forces are strong enough to beat them down again if they try to assert themselves.
Even Iran knows there are natural limits to their influence in Iraq. We should finally recognize that too.
I think there is a very good chance that reason will prevail on both sides and the Obama administration will reach an agreement with the Iraqi government to continue to train, though probably not directly support, the ISF. This will happen mainly in Kuwait unless some sort of immunity for US forces is reached, and without US control of the major part of at least one base in Iraq that is probably for the best anyway.
Perhaps the US military should be grateful to be leaving at this point. The US effort is soon to be led by the denizens of Foggy Bottom no matter what would have happened and despite the heroic efforts of a handful of PRT foreign service officers in Iraq in the past, that has to give any senior officer or NCO a bit of a chill. Best to be as far away from that and the 5,000 private security personnel that the State Department will manage as they do their thing. I mean, what could go wrong with that?
Not that I want to end on a cynical note here also, but do you think they will still call them mercs?