Personally, I think Ricks is thinking about the problem the wrong way. The “political breakthrough” he speaks of could never have occurred under Saddam. But in a larger sense I think Ricks is right to warn about failure in Iraq. OIF was meant to send a signal to the despots of the Middle East to mind their manners; to avoid supporting nonstate terror actors; to avoiding seeking weapons of mass destruction. But the dominant meme to emerge from the last six years has almost been the exact opposite. That it is hopeless, except in the sense of buying them off, to deflect Middle Eastern despots from their schemes; that it is equally impossible, and possibly even immoral to stand forcibly in the way of those who seek nuclear arms. Obama is not entirely, as Ricks argues, the hapless victim of the policies of the last six years, rather he is the expression of a point of view that believes they are a failure.
-Richard Fernandez, Iraq, Victory or defeat?
I think the past six years should be seen as a controlled experiment. When we attacked the terrorists and their patrons directly, made them personally accountable as we did the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, they and their allies and emulators backed off. But when we hesitated and temporized and appeased we lost ground. Israel had similar experiences. Its assassination campaign against Hamas leaders was highly effective in suppressing terror attacks, but its negotiation attempts, precipitate withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza, and irresolute handling of the 2006 Lebanese campaign helped to energize its enemies. In this context, Obama’s attempt to gain the favor of the Iranian regime rather than undermine it seems like an effort to replicate some of our and Israel’s recent strategic errors.