The Maliki Slapdown

by Victor Davis Hanson

Secretary of state John Kerry seemed surprised that Iraqi prime minister Nouri Maliki did not heed his reasonable request to deny the Iranians the use of Iraqi airspace to facilitate resupply of the Assad regime. While, of course, this slapdown is ingratitude pure and simple (Mr. Maliki right now would be either dead or in exile on a Baathist hit list, if not for the sacrifices of American troops), surely Kerry must concede that Maliki’s indifference is due (a) to the failure of the administration to negotiate a small constabulary air and land force that would have overseen the nascent constitutional government, and kept Iraqi borders and airspace protected, and (b) to the constant disparagement of post-Saddam Iraq over the last five years by Obama, Kerry, and others (who previously had run political campaigns on the premise that the reconstruction of Iraq had not been worth the American effort) — almost as if it were not entirely authentic and, as George Bush’s creation, most certainly not to be embraced fully.

Had Obama far earlier just reached out to Iraq as a friend in the way he did to hostiles, for example, to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, or the Iranian government in 2009–10, or to the Islamist rebels in Syria, we might have had better relations and a cooperative Iraqi government. As it is now, I’m afraid there are no upsides or downsides in Iraq’s relationship to the U.S., just a sort of irrelevance. And when we examine our attitudes toward Israel and the Palestinians, the U.K. in the Falklands, or Eastern Europe and Russia, contrasted with the embrace of the Arab Spring Islamists and Turkey, in some sense the U.S. has become everyone’s best enemy and worst friend.

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