This might be the most even-handed analysis, by a reporter who's spent much of his career in the region, of the current state of Iraq, as applies to our withdrawal, in response to Jeb Bush's recent claim that it's all Hillary Clinton's fault.
... Moreover, I think the Republican argument that a handful of American troops could have saved Iraq misses a larger point. The fundamental problem was American policy—in particular, the American policy of supporting and strengthening Maliki at all costs.... As Emma Sky, who served as a senior adviser to the American military during the war in Iraq, put it, “The problem was the policy, and the policy was to give unconditional support to Nuri al-Maliki.” (Sky’s book, “The Unraveling,” is the essential text on how everything fell apart.) When the Americans helped install him, in 2006, he was a colorless mediocrity with deeply sectarian views. By 2011, he was an unrivalled strongman with control over a vast military and security apparatus. Who enabled that?
First, it was the Bush White House. Then the Obama White House—Clinton was a part of that team, of course, but the official with primary responsibility for Iraq was Vice-President Joe Biden. Biden was a firm backer of Maliki, because it was through Maliki that the Americans seemed sure of an easy exit...
... So, back to Jeb Bush’s claim. What’s the verdict on Hillary Clinton? She played a supporting role in a disastrously managed withdrawal, which helped lay the groundwork for the catastrophe that followed. And that was preceded by the disastrously managed war itself, which was overseen by Jeb Bush’s brother. And that was preceded by the decision to go to war in the first place, on trumped-up intelligence, which was also made by Bush’s brother...I've said a million times that the chaos that followed the invasion was predictable (and predicted) from the time the idea burbled up from the swamp in Dick Cheney's brain. Perhaps keeping troops there for pretty-much ever would have been the better choice among lousy ones. But in the end it seems the problems that preceded our invasion and were uncorked by it will remain until they themselves, without or in spite of our help, manage to rise above their sectarian hatreds and insanity. It hasn't happened in centuries, and I'd bet it never will.
So our troops would have, inevitably, returned to being cannon-fodder and stokers of even more resentments. And, as awful as things are over there, and as horrific and inhuman as ISIS is, I'm not convinced -- not by a long shot -- that they represent the sort of threat to us, here, that all the R candidates would have us believe. I still think our future is under much greater and more demonstrable threat by climate change, by the usurping of our republic by self-interested plutocrats, by ignoring our enormous needs at home.
That view, most obviously, was not shared by the audience at the recent Republican "debate," to whom Planned Parenthood and (the diminishing number of) illegal immigrants are the monsters under the bed.