Nearly 100 U.S. soldiers and Marines died in the battle for the Iraqi city of Falluja nearly a decade ago. This month it was retaken by terrorist fighters. It is one of the parts of Iraq being overrun by al-Qaida and al-Qaida-linked fighters in the absence of a U.S. military presence.
“It made me sick to my stomach to have that thrown in our face, everything we fought for so blatantly taken away,” one former Marine who fought in Falluja in 2004 told The New York Times.
If the Bush administration’s inadequate planning for the Iraq war and its aftermath was reckless, so was the Obama administration’s 2011 withdrawal. The United States could not police Iraq forever. But Obama’s politically motivated withdrawal left a predictable power vacuum in many parts of the country, threatening to reverse many of the civilizing achievements that had cost the United States thousands of lives, not to mention billions of dollars.
We cannot go back. But the Obama administration could have done more to support the government and honor the Americans who lost their lives in that country by minimizing the risk that their victories would be undone.