Things We Don’t Argue Over

This happened in Iraq:

The issue of security is becoming increasingly politicized ahead of March 7 polls. Sunni lawmakers were quick to question whether the lockdown ordered by the Shiite-dominated government on Tuesday was really necessary and emphasized the inconvenience it caused ordinary Iraqis who could not get to work or school.

“The government is trying to leave the citizens with the impression that there is a battle. They terrified and shocked the people,” said legislator Saleh al-Mutlaq. “We think that these measures are totally unjustifiable.”

Mutlaq has been banned from running in March’s parliamentary elections by the successor to the de-Baathification commission. [Update: see comments.] Some reports are raising fears that the Sunnis will again boycott the vote, as they did in 2005, but I don’t know whether that’s more than loose journalistic talk.

What I do know is that absolutely none of this will have any impact at all on American politics. Iraq is just… gone as an issue. I remember a tense car trip in North Carolina with some friends in mid-2008, worrying that a liberal presidency would be derailed by withdrawing from Iraq under fire. Instead, 1200 people died from extremist violence between January and December 2009 in Baghdad and no one in the U.S. cared. For all the heated fights of the past seven years about Iraq, it turned out the right was just as exhausted of Iraq-the-issue as the left was of Iraq-the-place. There are more U.S. troops in Iraq than Afghanistan, still, but because U.S. policy is to extricate ourselves from the war, Iraq is simply… absent from our discussion. I should really take “Iraq” down from my logo, because I’m certainly no exception.

It’s not that I really have an argument to make here. I suppose it’s ultimately a positive thing that the acrimony of the Iraq war is behind us, at least for now. And it’s not actually problematic that the U.S. can’t seem to pay attention to more than one war at a time, since the point of U.S. foreign policy, as a general proposition, should be to fight as few wars as humanly possible. But this American sense that a problem overseas is solved the moment American politics reaches an equilibrium about it — that’s just unhealthy and self-delusional. Iraq is Iraq is Iraq. It doesn’t end when we change the channel.

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Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman