This week was an important milestone for the forward progress of the democracy movement in the Middle East. In an Oval Office speech President Obama announced the end of combat operations in Iraq while at the same time saying that 50,000 troops would remain on the ground in a non combatant “support” role. This is good news from many angles including increased democracy and economic freedoms for the Iraqis…but you would never know it from the tone of the President’s speech.
Unfortunately POTUS chose this moment to make a weak attempt to equate the sacrifices made by our soldiers and their success on the ground with the ongoing recession and rising deficits. Yes the economy is still on the skids and deficits are rising but they have more to do with the failed economic policy responses of this administration…not the “investments” made by the US taxpayer in a brave attempt to add another much needed democracy to this volatile region. It’s as if the President was saying….the economic cost of Iraqi freedom and democracy was not worth it.
Tell that to our battle weary troops. And also in a broader regional context…..the message was that the Iraq war was a waste of time in pushing the concept of real democratization, political reform and economic prosperity in a region that needs much more of it…not less.
Yes it is unfortunate that the President chose this moment to make a point about the failure of his economic policies to yank the economy out of its deepest economic downturn since WW2 and equate it with Iraq. To me this is representative of one of the largest problems in America today…our need for instant gratification that leads to a counter productive long term is lunch policy making mentality on the part of our politicians. We all want it now…voters want an instant response from politicians to our problems…politic ans are forced to grade their policy success immediately based on the fickleness of the voters and their leaders…this leads to bad policy decisions on both the economic and foreign policy fronts.
Disappointingly, short termism was evident this week in the Presidents speech. In fact, I believe that history will show that Iraq was a military, political and economic success and we will all look back and be proud of the assistance we gave the Iraqis and the region in their ultimate quest for democracy and more economic freedoms. The sacrifice made by our troops and the investments made by Americans and our allies will not have been in vain. And that is a good thing!
What is my historic benchmark for determining this? Vietnam. Despite the pessimism and remorse that many still feel…I firmly believe that the sacrifices made by the US in that conflict were for the good and that in fact, despite the lingering consensus belief to the contrary, we won that one. Why? All you have to do is look at the economic progress South East Asia has made since the end of hostilities in Vietnam. Could that have happened if we hadn’t been there? I doubt it. Would the dominoes have fallen if we hadn’t stepped up? No one can say…but history has shown over the past 30 years that the region has become more like us then we like them…the dominoes have become economic dynamos….all thanks to the human sacrifices and financial commitment of the US. And that should be viewed as a good thing too!
As combat operations wind down, why can’t our President and certain media elements take the high road and look at our commitments to Iraq in a more historical context and let history decide whether the “investment” was worth it instead of continuing to wallow in “long term is lunch” partisan finger pointing by attempting to blame our ongoing economic problems and deficits on the cost of the war…frankly I think it is inappropriate for the leader of the free world to put a short term price tag on our success in Iraq…let history decide whether it was worth it. I think in fact, using our success in SE Asia as a benchmark, that it will be…if we are all patient.
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