President Obama's plan to withdraw U.S. forces in Iraq over a 19 month period down to a residual force of 50,000 U.S. forces in permanent bases in Iraq isn't very likely to satisfy the American left, including many Democrats that oppose this war, however it may be a realistic, if not overly cautious plan.
The reality is that whenever the U.S. has engaged in a war somewhere, it has usually left U.S. forces behind in permanent bases such as Japan and Germany after WWII, and in Korea after that conflict, so realistically the continued presence of U.S. forces in Iraq is not much different than previous U.S. military experiences in many ways. Another reality is that Iran would like to expand it's role in Iraq, and would only further step pressure up to more heavily influence the Shiite dominated government of Iraq. Without some strong continued U.S. presence in Iraq, Iran is only very likely to pick up the pieces of the fractured and uneasy peace in Iraq.
The continued U.S. role in Iraq in the future might be satisfactory to many voters as long as U.S. combat deaths remain very low. However, any spikes in U.S. combat deaths could lead to more opposition to such a future role for U.S. forces. But many Americans might just accept that the U.S. cannot really completely leave Iraq due to the uneasy peace there.
On another hand, the government of Iraq could feel more stable with a continued U.S. role to some extent, but this could also lead to more Iraqi resentment about a continued U.S. role in their nation that has caused the deaths of more than one million Iraqi civilians in a nation with just 28.2 million residents. The fact of the matter is that the U.S. has brought deaths to many families in Iraq, which is no doubt very unpopular.
Yesterday on CNN, David Gergen commented that for a president so boldly acting on the economy, President Obama is very cautious on foreign policy matters and is acting very carefully so as not to upset critical balances or allow a new crisis to emerge. Mr. Obama has no plans to go down in history as a president that lost Iraq, so he's carefully compromising his policy both there and in Afghanistan as well where he might only add just 17,000 more troops, while many in the Pentagon ask for as many as 30,000 more troops.
Caution and moderation might be the best words to describe the Obama foreign policy so far. Mr. Obama doesn't need an international crisis to contend with right now when he's attempting to make some progress dealing with the serious economic crisis. If anything, Mr. Obama is proving himself to be a wise and pragmatic sort of liberal, much in the mode of John Kennedy, who was a trustworthy defender of the U.S. interests around the world. Perhaps that might well be the best path to take.
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