Diana West

On Dec. 31, 2011, Iraq's Nouri al-Maliki declared a national holiday to celebrate the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Funny way to say "thank you" for all the blood and treasure, no?

Not that Maliki was saying thank you. He wasn’t even saying good riddance. He was saying, in effect, it was all a dream. Or, in the Associated Press’ words: “The prime minister sought to credit Iraqis with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and made no mention of the role played by U.S. forces that invaded Iraq in March 2003.”

No mention, huh? I guess it was just a trillion-dollar mirage, a figment, a never-never fantasy best dropped from speeches, polite conversation, maybe history books. Then again, silence suits the American political classes fine. Amazingly, following the U.S. withdrawal, the questions, "What was that all about?" or, "What went wrong in Iraq?" or even, "Did something go wrong in Iraq?" (never mind, "What is going wrong in Afghanistan?") don't rise even to the level of conversation-enders. They don't rise, period, not even among GOP presidential candidates, beyond the odd sound bite.

Famously, of course, Ron Paul calls for withdrawal of U.S. troops everywhere, a rollback of the international security force the U.S. military has become, certainly since entering World War II. While Paul's constitutional position is strong, his misunderstanding of Islam undermines his rationale for me; indeed, it transforms his policy into submission. The aftermath of withdrawal under a Paul presidency could be as dangerous as it would be under more Obama.

I support withdrawal from guaranteed recidivist hellholes such as Iraq and Afghanistan as a means to shore up the wall against the spread of Shariah (Islamic law) in the West rather than, in effect, continuing to fight/accommodate Shariah culture in the Islamic world. This is a no-win struggle in which only a see-no-Shariah utopian could still engage. It is this Islam-blind engagement that is the simple but devastating flaw of the Bush-Obama counterinsurgencies (COIN). But it continues to get a national pass.

Indeed, most GOP candidates tend to promise more of the same Bush-Obama COIN. (Jon Huntsman is the other main GOP exception. He voices a come-home-America policy in Afghanistan based on non-feasibility, economics and war-weariness -- all valid points -- but without parsing COIN, which he sees as a success in Iraq.) The candidates speak in generalities, when they speak at all.


Diana West

Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character (St. Martin's Press, 2013), and The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization (St. Martin's Press, 2007).