Americans should expect no less, after more than 1.5 million US soldiers served in Iraq with a loss of more than 4,440 American lives and tens of thousands of Iraqis. The two nations are now inextricably bound by a contentious history born of post-9/11 fears but also hopes for a Middle East that can be rid of jihadism through contagious democracy.
As President Obama said in August, “We’ve persevered because of a belief we share with the Iraqi people – a belief that out of the ashes of war, a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization.”
The fragile but definitive successes in Iraq are already serving as a model for other conflicts, such as Afghanistan. Ending the civil war that erupted in 2006, for instance, required a careful mix of a troop surge, diplomatic finesse of sectarian factions, and the use of reconstruction teams in the provinces.
The US is also beefing up its people exchanges, such as placing young Iraqi engineers in US high-tech firms in hopes they will launch start-up businesses back home. And the US Department of Justice is helping Iraq cement a commitment to the rule of law.
Iraq’s security forces now measure more than half a million, and operate largely out of nationalist rather than sectarian motives. In a sign of revived Iraqi patriotism and communal tolerance, tensions between Shiite politicians are as strong as between Shiites and Sunnis.