President Obama announced on Friday, October 21 that the Iraq War, which began in March of 2003, will be over before the end of the year, bringing the remaining 40,000 troops, “home for the holidays”. Just five weeks left of a nearly nine year war, one in which most Americans would call a long national nightmare. In 2008, Ryan Crocker, then the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, said to Congress, “In the end, how we leave and what we leave behind will be more important than how we came.” Given President Obama’s statement that after the withdrawl of troops is complete, “America’s war in Iraq will be over,” it is now, more than ever, critical to answer Crocker’s question about, what, exactly, is America leaving behind in Iraq?
We should be worried. Iraq now faces a multitude of political, counter-terrorism, and civil challenges that may be too excessive to handle without the presence of the United States. Since the demise of Suddam Hussein, Iraq remains an unstable, problematic nation. This is not to say, though, that the new political class has not had some successes when faced with adversity. Controversial issues, such as the creation of a new constitution, and the role of Islam in government have been agreed upon peacefully, however, Iraq is still a nation ridden with major inherent instabilities.
The challenges confronting the Iraqi people are daunting and many factors are driving the future of its nation towards disorder. Amid all of these new political transformations, should we expect to see the Iraqi people resort back to a state of nature, and if so, what type might we see? Hobbes’ state of nature suggests that there is no injustice because there is no law, therefore man will do whatever is in his interest, perpetuating a state of war. I don’t expect to see a free-for-all in Iraq due to the fact that there are sects within Iraq that have been around for centuries and are too powerful as a whole to disband. Locke’s state of nature is rooted in natural law. In the state of nature, Locke argues that man is free to do as he pleases “within the bounds of the laws of nature.” This state of nature seems more likely than Hobbes’ state of war, however, Locke’s claims that the natural law demands that the punishment must fit the crime, but throughout Iraqi history, this has not always been the case. Instead, I believe that we might see a federalist state of nature. I agree with Madison in that human nature divides us into factions of people with similar ideas and goals, and because Iraq is already composed of several factions, it would be natural for a failing Iraqi government to be replaced by these factions.
Decades of subordination to the Sunni political dominance, have resulted in a deep insecurity of the Shia religious majority. Their insecurity has resulted in an unwillingness to compromise with the Sunnis on a number of major political issues and years of deadly violence. Clearly the continuation of U.S. military presence would not put an end to this history split, but its removal certainly increases the potential for sectarian violence and negative foreign influence. Obama issued his announcement after holding a video conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, and said that the two were in agreement about how both nations could move forward towards a new, strategic, relationship. He did not, however, mention that their differing political priorities continue to exist. The U.S. administration, for months, has attempted to negotiate with Iraqi officials concerning the possibility of keeping 5,000 troops stationed in Iraq as military trainers. Yet, in the end, Iraq’s political leaders declared that any remaining U.S. troops would not be granted immunity from Iraqi law, which was a deal-breaker for the U.S.
The United States also leaves behind a less than ideal framework for future cooperation with Iraq. With an increased Iranian influence, it is more than likely that groups opposed to the U.S. will gain power, and thus promote and enforce American defiance. Recently, Iranian-allied Iraqi political leaders have declared all U.S. personnel stationed in Iraq to be “occupiers” who ought to be “resisted.” With a growing Anti-American influence, how can the U.S. possibly expect to maintain an effective strategic partnership with Iraq?