“The war in Iraq is not over,” warns New York Times reporter John Burns, who as Cubachi notes was one of the best war correspondents in the field during combat phase in Iraq. He tells Tavis Smiley on PBS that we had better start praying for divine intervention, because the trajectory of violence has gone the wrong way this year while we have drawn down our troop presence to 50,000 outside of the cities. Neither Iraq nor Afghanistan are succeeding at the moment, Burns claims, and by next year Obama may be faced with a situation where he’ll have to pull troops out of two fronts as they collapse:
On Iraq, it’s hard to see how Obama could have improved the situation. He followed the SOFA pact that George W. Bush negotiated with Nouri al-Maliki, and the Iraqi government made it clear they wanted us to stick to that schedule. If the Iraqis want us out entirely by the end of next year, we have little choice but to comply; to do otherwise would be a de facto reoccupation that will not fly well here at home or abroad. However, I’d say it’s entirely likely that Baghdad will rethink that final phase and ask us to remain for logistics, training, and air and sea protection for the next several years, and then the question will be whether Obama will agree to it or insist on a full withdrawal, even if it means the collapse of the nascent democracy in Iraq.
Afghanistan is a different problem, but one with potentially the same result. Obama owns Afghanistan more than he does Iraq, having made the decision himself to add more troops and get more aggressive, which means a failure there can’t be left on the doorstep of his predecessor. If Obama starts withdrawing from both fronts as they deteriorate, he will at least be the man who lost Afghanistan, if not Iraq as well, just as he has to prepare to convince Americans to give him another four years as Commander-in-Chief. For that reason, I doubt we’ll see a significant drawdown in either theater, and Obama will just have to remind the Left that they have nowhere else to go in 2012.