The authors open with a blast at what they characterize as a self-congratulating Obama administration. They write:
With administration officials celebrating the “successful” withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, thanking antiwar groups for making that withdrawal possible, and proffering outrageous claims about Iraq’s “stability,” “sovereignty,” and the “demilitarization” of American foreign policy even as Iraq collapses, it is hard to stay focused on America’s interests and security requirements. Especially in an election year, the temptation will only grow to argue about who lost Iraq, whether it was doomed from the outset, whether the current disaster “proves” either that the success of the surge was inherently ephemeral or that the withdrawal of U.S. troops caused the collapse. The time will come for such an audit of Iraq policy over the last five years, but not yet. For the crisis in Iraq is still unfolding, and the United States continues to have a huge stake in the outcome. The question of the moment is not “Who lost Iraq?” but rather “Is Iraq definitely lost?”
The Kagans share their granual understanding of the conflict and deal-making between various factions in Iraq’s political ecosystem.
They suggest, and I agree, that the US troop withdrawal has impacted the previous equilibrium and changed the calculations of power players in the government — and that President Nouri al-Maliki is moving to consolidate his control over the state, working to move Sunni rivals out of their positions — and has used the pretext of an alleged plot against his life by Vice President Tariq al Hashimi to make his moves.
The Kagans write:
The withdrawal of all American military forces has greatly reduced America’s leverage in Iraq. U.S. military forces were a buffer to prevent political and ethno-sectarian friction from becoming violent by guaranteeing Maliki against a Sunni coup d’