Can We Declare Iraq a Success?


Remember Iraq?  With the Syrian rebellion and Arab Spring aftershocks, media coverage of Iraq has tapered off. So, should we conclude that it's a success? That was the question posited at a New America Foundation That's Debatable event, hosted by the National Securities Studies Program.   Moderated by NSSP director Peter Bergen, the debate pitted two experienced Iraq hands against each other. Douglas A. Ollivant,  a Senior NSSP Fellow and a retired Army officer whose last duty assignment was as Director for Iraq at the National Security Council during both the Bush and Obama administrations, argued that Iraq, at this moment, was a success, especially if you graded Iraq on a regional curve.  Lt. Col. Joel Rayburn, Military Fellow at New America and Professor at the National Defense University, argued that it wasn't, and that it was a result of several bad decisions made since 2003.In this video, Ollivant argues that three “stubborn facts” make his case, and offer optimism for the country's future: 1- it has a working parliamentary democracy; 2- it is pumping cheap oil; 3- the internal battle against domestic terrorism is being won. Ollivant acknowledged that none of these dynamics were perfect, but that Iraq has gained enough traction on each that it suggested the verdict on its progress is positive.   Rayburn, who is still active duty (his comments here are personal, not in his official capacity), argued that various decisions since 2003 have left Iraq poorly positioned to confront its own difficulties, that Prime Minister Maliki has corrupted the parliamentary process and that its internal Sunni rebellion is not tamed, but is  actually as great a threat as ever, given the Syrian rebellion and the potential for broad, regional uprising.  To be clear: this debate is not asking whether the U.S. should have invaded in the first place, just whether, in 2013, can we declare Iraq a success?  What do you think? (The room thought Rayburn won, by a slight margin.)


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