Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Not our finest hour?

What's missing from the President's short history of the U.K.-U.S. alliance, delivered to Parliament today?
We are the allies who landed at Omaha and Gold, who sacrificed side by side to free a continent from the march of tyranny, and help prosperity flourish from the ruins of war.  And with the founding of NATO –- a British idea –- we joined a transatlantic alliance that has ensured our security for over half a century.

     Together with our allies, we forged a lasting peace from a cold war.  When the Iron Curtain lifted, we expanded our alliance to include the nations of Central and Eastern Europe, and built new bridges to Russia and the former states of the Soviet Union. And when there was strife in the Balkans, we worked together to keep the peace.

Today, after a difficult decade that began with war and ended in recession, our nations have arrived at a pivotal moment once more.  A global economy that once stood on the brink of depression is now stable and recovering.  After years of conflict, the United States has removed 100,000 troops from Iraq, the United Kingdom has removed its forces, and our combat mission there has ended.  In Afghanistan, we’ve broken the Taliban’s momentum and will soon begin a transition to Afghan lead.  And nearly 10 years after 9/11, we have disrupted terrorist networks and dealt al Qaeda a huge blow by killing its leader –- Osama bin Laden.   

Bush and Blair's adventure in Iraq is present only as an absence, a place where troops are removed. No attempt to count the eight-year war and nation-building exercise as an accomplishment of the alliance.

I can imagine a speechwriter's difficulty in fitting the causus belli in Iraq into the compressed narrative formula that's a staple of Obama's speeches.  "When the Iron Curtain lifted, we expanded our alliance...when there was strife in the Balkans, we worked together to keep the peace...when we convinced ourselves that an Iraqi dictator was developing weapons of mass destruction..."...

But just last week, in his middle east speech, Obama had this to say about Iraq:
The Iraqi people have rejected the perils of political violence in favor of a democratic process, even as they’ve taken full responsibility for their own security.  Of course, like all new democracies, they will face setbacks.  But Iraq is poised to play a key role in the region if it continues its peaceful progress.  And as they do, we will be proud to stand with them as a steadfast partner.
 If that is a fair characterization, should it not be included in a register of the alliance's accomplishments?

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