The US is withdrawing its troops from Iraq's urban centres. The troops are arrayed in "belts" around towns and cities. The question is whether this is a victory for the US or for its enemies. According to the NewYork Times:
Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has taken to calling the withdrawal of American combat troops from Iraq’s cities by next Tuesday a “great victory,” a repulsion of foreign occupiers he compares to the rebellion against British troops in 1920.US political and military leadership is not challenging their supposed ally, Mr. Al-Maliki. (I wrote a post on November 24 2005 advising the strategy of withdrawing US Forces to locations outside the cities.)
The original strategy of the US
The strategy of the US after the attack by the Jihadists on 9-11 consisted of invading Iraq to turn it into a democratic model for the rest of the Middle East. A democratic Iraq would undermine autocratic Middle Eastern regimes and usher in an era of democracy. This democratic era would than take away the "root causes" of Middle Eastern discontent with the West.
Iraq becoming a newer, bigger Lebanon
Rather than becoming a haven for Freedom, Iraq became a violent tangle of sects and tribes. The US was never able to deal with it. After calming the country down after the surge the US military is now leaving the urban centres to the newly constituted Iraqi security forces under the control of Mr. Al-Maliki and the Shia.
Gaining legitimacy in the eyes of the majority sect
Mr. Al-Maliki and his government are now faced with a fight with the Sunni minority. The Sunnis allied themselves with the US during the surge in return for the US paying a tribute. On the other hand Mr. Al-Maliki faces competition for the hearts and minds of the Shia from even more radical elements. For PM Al-Maliki the alliance with the US is increasingly becoming a burden. He needs to divest from the US and strengthen other alliances with local powers. These will be shia Iran (never mind who wins the present power struggle there), the Kurds, Turkey, Jordan and if possible Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.
The US is facing different set of problems now
Meanwhile in the US the state of California is so broke that it can not cover 25 percent of the budget. The Federal government is refusing to bail out the state. It the Federal government will not bail out California, will it be interested in continuing to pour treasure into Iraq?
This amounts to something bigger than the US defeat in Vietnam. It is like the USSR having to withdraw from its internationalist duty in Afghanistan.
Why did the strategy of democratization fail?
The US leaderhip are so in thrall of the equality dogma, that they failed to take into account that the Middle East belongs to a different Civilization than Eastern Europe, where democratization has proven more successful. The Islamic faith is extremely hostile to Western ideas of government. This makes it difficult to mobilize the population for an effort supporting a Western-led endeavor and easy to mobilize the population to those who are opposed to the West.