Because of its relatively static news and Americas economic woes, the war in Iraq has largely fallen off the front page and the front of peoples minds. Thats a shame, because this boondoggle continues to cost trillions and take the lives of American soldiers. But recent news from the country ought to elevate the conflicts profile once again.
First comes the positive news (depending on your perspective, anyway): On Monday, the Iraqi parliament approved a pact that allows U.S. troops to stay in the country until 2011. After that theyll be forced to pack it up and go, less than two years shy of a 10-year occupation. Its not an immediate withdrawal, but its progress, which after five and a half years feels good to see.
The agreement took more than a year to negotiate, although that span includes a number of mundane regulatory and trade issues. It also included a number of issues about Iraqs sovereignty, mostly (and fairly) that Iraq didnt want the United States meddling in its affairs into the future.
Still, other news on the Iraq front doesnt bode well for the countrys future. Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that the Iraqi government was systematically firing government overseers in what it termed a notoriously opaque and graft-ridden bureaucracy.
The article estimates that $13 billion in U.S. reconstruction funds had been squandered or embezzled and that corruption estimates have been soaring. Monitoring this is going to be tough, when as many as 17 oversight officials have been sacked. Officials postulate that many of the firings are motivated by political and partisan reasons Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki doesnt want a system of checks and balances in his governments, and weve seen what thats dragged in in the past.
The United States is in a tough position. It created more of a mess in Iraq than was already there, so for all intents and purposes, it ought to stay till its job is finished. But at what point do you have to throw in the towel and say enough is enough? At what point is a U.S. presence in Iraq only harming further process? At what point to we have to go back to worrying about our own country, our own economy, our own soldiers, our own safety? Will Iraq ever be able to accept a Western standard of democracy, especially if its forced down the countrys throat? Current evidence seems to point to no.
The United Stateshas reached that point where its continued presence wont fix anything. Godspeed on the 2011 full withdrawal, and may the Iraq government get its act together.