Invading Iraq was one of the Bush administration’s worst mistakes. It is a waste of blood and treasure to send troops to a country that never attacked us and poses no security threat. I’ve been looking forward to the day when President Obama would announce that misguided war’s end.
Today is that day. He has declared an official end to combat operations. But the announcement rings hollow. There are still 50,000 troops in Iraq. They are still being fired upon. They are still firing back. Their lives are still at risk every day. That sounds an awful lot like “combat operations.”
Iraq will be a free country some day. But that requires massive institutional reform. That kind of sea-level change will take a generation or more. And it has to come from within. It cannot be imposed from without by a foreign army.
Armies can fight wars. They cannot build nations. Freedom is not a top-down construction. It is a bottom-up process. It is well past time to withdraw all troops from Iraq and put a real end to combat operations.
America does have a role in Iraq’s future. Engaging in trade and commerce with Iraqis will help build the economy there, while benefiting consumers in both countries. Tourism and cultural exchange can build up good will for a nation currently viewed by many Iraqis as an occupier.
Most importantly, intellectual exchange can give Iraq’s future leaders an understanding of liberalism that they can make their own and adapt to Iraq’s unique circumstances.
It’s a long and messy road. But nobody can take the first step until combat operations actually end. We are still 50,000 troops away from that noble goal.