Preemptive Retreat

Long-but-worth-your-while article on Obama’s “great bug-out” from the Middle East over at the Weekly Standard. Here’s the graf that caught my eye:

Assessing Bush’s Middle East strategy in light of the overall regional balance of power also casts Iran questions in a different light. While there was no moderation of the revolutionary bent of the Islamic Republic or halt to its drive to acquire nuclear weapons, the strong U.S. positions in Iraq and Afghanistan did much to contain Iranian mischief-making and posed a credible threat to Iran’s nuclear facilities; in Iraq, Nuri al-Maliki’s bold “Knight’s Charge” operation in early 2008 defeated a gaggle of Iran-friendly Shia militias in the southern city of Basra, militias including Moktada al-Sadr’s Jaish al Mahdi. At the time​—​meaning in the context of the perceived successes of the U.S. “surge”​—​it appeared that Maliki might be an independent leader with a bit of a nationalist streak willing to take on Iranian proxies.

Often forgotten or overlooked is that Saddam’s regime was a dead end. Neither of his sons were competent enough (although they certainly seemed sadistic enough) to carry on his Stalinesque rule. When Saddam died, from causes natural or not, there was going to be a power vacuum. And the Iranians were sure to take advantage.

We deposed Saddam ourselves, and filled that vacuum, too. Incompetently at first, then with a surer hand after the Surge. Saddam was gone and the Iranians were out. In a region of the world where we’re more used to lose-lose, this was a nice (if expensive and too-long-in-coming) win-win.

Obama threw that away to concentrate of Afghanistan’s worthless mountain wastelands.