Last week, I wrote here on Huffington Post that it was time to start putting pressure on the Iraqi government to settle their internal differences, and make clear that we're no longer going to be their crutch.
I closed by saying, "It's time for President Obama to recognize that, and get tough. If the Iraqis aren't committed to dealing with their internal problems then we should expedite our withdrawal. American troops should never be more committed to the peace and security of a foreign country more than those who live there."
This weekend, Vice President Biden, in Iraq, did just that, reports Bloomberg News:
Vice President Joseph Biden told Iraqi leaders that the path to a secure peace lies in uniting ethnic and sectarian groups and said the U.S. might disengage from their country if it reverts to sustained violence... He also told Maliki that if Iraq fell into a period of sectarian violence or engaged in ethnic fighting, such a step would change the nature of U.S. engagement, a senior administration official said, according to the report.
The Washington Post expands, reporting:
He added that there "wasn't any appetite to put Humpty Dumpty back together again if, by the action of people in Iraq, it fell apart."
The warning was a dramatic indication of the changing U.S. posture in Iraq, the foremost foreign policy concern of the Bush administration. The statements suggested that the Obama administration would absolve itself of responsibility if Iraq again descended into chaos, dragged down by still-unresolved crises. They include border disputes between Kurds and Arabs and also legislation for Iraq's oil resources.
That's exactly what the Vice President had to say, and I have to give credit where credit is due.
Even if the war itself was wrongly waged, it made some sense to provide some security to the Iraqis as they transitioned to a new government. But, Iraqis never took advantage of that security, after a government was formed, through the surge, and the end of the surge, to resolve their major internal differences without violence. In short, the reality of the US leaving them on their own never seemed like a possibility. When there was trouble, we sent more troops in to tamp down violence ourselves.
That hardly encourages self-reliance or self-preservation. It only encourages dependency.
That's why the surge was nothing more than keeping the cork on the bottle, and why the only real option left is to make clear that all of Iraqis leaders and factions will lose, unless they resolve their internal political battles -- now. If we don't, and violence just continues on a loop with the expectation that we'll eventually clean it up, our troops are in danger every time they move convoys, or military transition teams head out.
That's why Vice President Biden did what he did, and why the message he sent was absolutely the right thing to do.