A difficult road still ahead in Iraq

Thomas Ricks, one of the leading American journalists covering military matters, warns against thinking it’s pretty clear sailing from now on–and that the US still has heavy responsibilities:

Layoff notices, bank failures and plummeting stock markets seem to fill every minute of our newscasts and every corner of our consciences.
What a time to be selling a book with this cheery thesis: The disastrous war in Iraq probably must continue to prevent further disaster.
You’d have to be hopelessly out of touch, a tad delusional — or a crackerjack journalist on a mission — to come out with a winner like that, as Thomas E. Ricks has.
In “The Gamble,” the veteran Washington Post correspondent looks at how the U.S. troop “surge” brought a measure of stability to Iraq — gains he describes as so fragile that they almost certainly will disappear if the U.S. pulls out too precipitously.
In interviews he has been giving in recent days, Ricks provides little solace to those who want to believe an American victory in Iraq is at hand. But those who want to pull out now won’t find much comfort either.
Ricks calls the Iraq war the “biggest mistake in the history of American foreign policy.” But unlike some Americans, whether journalists or regular citizens, he has devoted considerable thought to the morality of leaving a country torn apart by our grand misadventure.
On National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” this week, Ricks described how he told one book-signing crowd that a hurried pullout could lead to genocide.
“Somebody in the audience said, ‘So what?’ and somebody else said, ‘Genocide happens all the time.’ And I thought, Oh my God, Americans are willing to take genocide in Iraq and just leave.”
When I spoke to Ricks on Thursday, he said he understood the frustration of those who feel the U.S. is postponing its inevitable departure. “I think it’s immoral to stay in Iraq,” he said, “but I think it’s even more immoral to leave right now. That’s the tragedy of this situation.”
…America will leave as many as 50,000 residual troops in Iraq, propping up a fragile regime.
“This war is not over,” Ricks told me. “You can hang a ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner or you can say combat operations are over, but it’s not really over until troops stop dying. That’s my definition for the end of the war.”…

Ricks’ book on the Americans’ first three years in Iraq, Fiasco, generally received very good reviews, but on the other hand
Mark C.
Update: A NY Times story sees the bright side:

6 Years in, Troops Glimpse Real Path Out of Iraq

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