The most Mr. Obama could proclaim was that America wished a "welcome home" to the last of the 1.5 million American troops who had served in what he once described as a "dumb war." He was making good in a sense on the pledge he made as a presidential candidate in 2008 to extricate America from it.
In so doing, he acknowledged the Iraq he was leaving behind "is not a perfect place," but he declared it is now "a sovereign, stable and self-reliant" state, a conclusion that only the future can validate.
The wind-down was not, to be sure, like the humiliating forced pullout of the end of the
The celebratory tribute to the troops at Fort Bragg, many of whom had returned recently from the last of several tours in Iraq, was certainly in order. All those present and the thousands of others who also served there were part of a voluntary American military, unlike many of the Vietnam-era draftees, who had no choice.
Nor was there ever a protest at home against the American involvement in Iraq that came close to the chaos in the streets that marked the U.S. engagement in Vietnam. Through no fault of their own, many Vietnam veterans came home to a misguided stigma from war protesters, who confused those who had to fight the war with those who orchestrated and persevered in it.
Yet, despite Mr. Obama's noble efforts to find a pony in the pile of manure that was the wrongheaded invasion of Iraq, the singular cause for celebrating the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq is that the nightmare may at last be over.
The man who started it all, now in quiet retirement in Texas, may be best remembered for that premature banner declaring "Mission Accomplished" flying over this head on the aircraft carrier
A good argument can be made as well that had
In all this, President Obama has been guilty of his own share of dissembling on the wars, to the chagrin of voters who saw him as a shining knight leading America out of the folly of the essentially go-it-alone foreign policy he inherited. To them, it has taken Mr. Obama much too long to do so, particularly after having bought into the generals' call for a troop surge in Afghanistan.
However, in Libya, he did turn a corner in limiting U.S. involvement in a true collective action of the sort that brought the allied West through the perils of the long Cold War. Belittled as "leading from behind," Mr. Obama avoided the kind of nation building that produced an Iraq of questionable stability and reliability to American interests.
There is cause for relief, if not wild celebration, that the