Hot Topic: U.S. withdrawal from Iraq

Paul Hamilton

Paul Hamilton

U.S. president Barack Obama made an announcement Tuesday formally ending the U.S. combat role in Iraq, saying “It’s time to turn the page.” The new priority, he said, is fixing America’s battered economy.

Fifty thousand troops will remain behind until the end of 2011. That may be enough to prevent forces in regions surrounding Iraq from having dangerous sway in the country, says Paul Hamilton, associate professor of Political Science at Brock.

After five months, Iraq still does not have a stable government of its own. But Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan all have their champions in the country. Any of them gaining too much power in Iraq would be a nightmare for the U.S., Hamilton said.

“But the presence of 50,000 soldiers will still be a deterrent against explicit intervention,” he said. “Iran has had no more success forming a government in Baghdad than the U.S. has.”

Hamilton shared some of his other thoughts on the withdrawal with The Brock News.

Is the U.S. withdrawing from Iraq a good idea?

It’s been planned for a long, long time and they eventually had to leave, so yes, it’s a good idea. It was a campaign promise so Obama had to do it. His post-election successes have been spotty. There have been things he’s achieved with regards to health care and the economy, but there have been things he hasn’t. It’s an election year and he felt the need to do it.

Is the timing election based?

The timing is largely determined by the state of operations and commanders in the field in Iraq. Of course the commitment to proceed with his promise was partly informed by the election. But this was more than that.

What price has the U.S. paid for the war of Iraq?

The literal price is estimated to be $3 trillion. Over the long term, when you look at World War I, the greatest expense was 40 to 50 years after the service men and women came back from war. You’re going to see even more of that this time with new technologies, new pharmaceuticals and longer life spans. Troops are coming back with extreme injuries and are going to have to be cared for. So far, about 450,000 people have applied for various benefits for injuries, post-traumatic stress and other claims to do with Iraq. And of course, there’s a budgetary cost domestically. For every dollar you spend on Iraq, you can’t spend it on a bridge in Minnesota. There’s been a political price, but I think it’s premature to conclude what that is. We’ll know more 30 years down the road. There’s been an enormous cost in the region in terms of tensions with allies, but now that (George W.) Bush is gone, I think there’s a window to improve on those.

How does this impact Canada?

Not very much. Canada has never been involved. I don’t see a lot of impact on Canada, except the possibility that the Liberal party will claim it made the right decision by not getting involved.

New U.S. leader in Iraq signals non-combat role
• CBC News — Iraq: The last seven years
Paul Hamilton faculty profile

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