Back in February, Vice President Joseph Biden declared: "I am very optimistic about Iraq. I mean, this could be one of the great achievements of this administration." Even for a politician much given to strategic ineptitude compounded by foot-in-mouth disease, that was a doozy.
As has been pointed out innumerable times since, if Iraq turns out to be a truly "great achievement" in any ordinary sense of the word, Mr. Biden and Barack Obama - two of the most insistent opponents of George W. Bush's efforts to consolidate Iraq's liberation - are among the last people in Washington who should take such credit.
Worse yet, unfortunately for the Iraqi people and others who love freedom, it looks increasingly as though the Obama administration will have the loss of Iraq as one of its most signal accomplishments.
Three murderous suicide bombings in Baghdad over the weekend are but the latest indication of the renewed reality there: Those determined to use violence to destabilize the country, foment sectarian strife and shape Iraq's destiny can do so with impunity.
The fact that the Iranian embassy was one of the targets suggests Sunni extremist groups - perhaps including the once-defeated al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) - are responsible for this round of attacks. Elsewhere in the country though, Shiite death squads that may or may not have ties to the pro-Iranian factions currently running the country are ruthlessly liquidating prominent tribal leaders and others associated with the movement in Anbar Province known as The Awakening. The latter were instrumental to the success of the U.S. surge and to the opportunity thus created for an Iraqi future vastly superior to its despotic and chaotic past.
Among the objects of the growing violence are individuals who stood for office in the recent parliamentary elections. This amounts to post facto disenfranchisement of the Iraqi voters whose turnout of over 60 percent - in the face of threats by anti-democratic forces that voting would be deemed a capital offense - powerfully testified to their desire to exercise the right enjoyed by no others in the Mideast except Israelis: to have a real say in their government and future.
Sadly, all other things being equal, that popular ambition seems unlikely to be realized. There is an unmistakable vacuum of power being created by President Obama's determination to withdraw U.S. "combat" forces no matter what, starting with the cities a few months ago and in short order from the rest of the country.
Increasingly, that vacuum is being filled by Iran and its proxies on the one hand and, on the other, insurgent Sunni forces, both those aligned with al Qaeda and those that have, at least until recently, been suppressing the AQI. On what might be called the third hand, Iraqi Kurds are experiencing their own internal problems as well as an increasingly ill-concealed inclination to assert their independence from the rest of the country.
The signal of American abandonment was made the more palpable by Team Obama's decision to dispatch Christopher Hill as its ambassador to Iraq. Hill is the diplomat best known for his determination during the Bush 43 years to appease, rather than thwart, the despot most closely enabling the realization of Iran's nuclear ambitions: North Korea's Kim Jong Il. The unreliability of the United States as an ally - a hallmark of the Obama presidency more generally - is reinforcing the sense that it is every man for himself in Iraq.
The prospects of any "great achievement" in Iraq are being further diminished by the direction to the Pentagon to shift personnel and equipment from Iraq to Afghanistan. The President himself reinforced that commitment during his speech to U.S. troops at Bagram Air Base last week. The detailed planning and ponderous logistics associated with such a transfer increasingly foreclose options to change course. Our commanders will soon be hard pressed to preserve today's deployments of American forces in Iraq, let alone to have them take up once again the sorts of positions in the urban areas that they held to such therapeutic effect during the surge.
The inadvisability of relocating U.S. forces from the strategically vital Iraqi theater to the marginal Afghan one is made all the greater by another grim prospect: The mounting evidence that our troops will be put in harm's way in Afghanistan simply to preside over the surrender of that country to one strain of Shariah-adherent Taliban or another. There, too, President Obama has publicly promised to begin reversing his mini-surge by next summer, again irrespective of conditions on the ground. And his insistence on "engaging" at least some of those who allowed the country to be used as a launching pad for al Qaeda's 9/11 attacks augurs ill for the Afghan people (especially the female ones) - and for us.
It may be that Team Obama is calculating that the American people are so sick of these conflicts and the associated costs in blood and treasure that they will consider cutting our losses to be a "great achievement" - irrespective of the consequences. After all, a generation ago their ideological forefathers led the United States in abandoning the South Vietnamese, without obvious political fall-out here at home. To the extent the Republicans are increasingly signaling a determination to run next Fall on a platform silent on national security matters, they may be right, at least in the short run.
There should be no doubt, however: The repercussions of the Obama administration losing Iraq will cost us dearly in the future as adherents to Shariah around the world are reinforced in their conviction of that our defeat and submission is preordained. Even if, at the moment, we cannot fully comprehend the implications of such a perception, we will know from here on out whose "great achievement" precipitated the resulting horror for America and the rest of what was once the Free World.