Quora Question: Given the Mess With ISIS, Was It a Mistake for President Obama to Pull American Military Forces Out of Iraq?

Iraqi soldiers stand guard at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Tikrit, northern Iraq October 8, 2014. Reuters

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Answer from Jon Davis, Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran, U.S. Marine Corps.

It should be very obvious by now, that it was a failure to allow the removal of US forces.

It is a mistake to accept any claims that President Obama is responsible for pulling out US troops. He never made the choice to remove American forces as much as the Iraqis did and alluding to that fact was a dishonest thing for his supporters to perpetuate, in the first place. The troops were forced out through the democratic forces of that nation. Matt Wasserman already outlined that very well, so I don't want to repeat it.

The fact of the matter was, while I agree with all of Matt's points, it should seem obvious that there should have been more done to guarantee an American presence in the state. The Diplomatic Mission to Iraq and the State Department should have made it an issue that would have kept the presence and prevent the vacuum that developed in the Al Anbar province which then bled into and found a home in the upheaval of the Syrian Civil War. Emboldened and empowered by that political vacuum, it should have been simple to predict what was about to happen. In fact...

Politics aside, quite honestly, it was a horrifically irresponsible mistake to allow the American forces to be kicked out so unceremoniously from the country. It gave the perfect storm for the events we are seeing today. What's important to know is that, contrary to what many here in the United States were led to believe, not long after the 2007-2008 US military counter-insurgency campaign, Iraq returned to a level of violence comparable to prewar levels. The war which which people saw did not accurately in the American narrative, did not accurately portray the ground situation of that country. That tenuous peace that existed between late 2008 and 2011 only existed, however, because of the presence of the American military.

When 2011 came around, the political pressure on the President were such that, it would seem, he viewed it more important to risk not being reelected than to ensure that the efforts of tens of thousands of Iraq War veterans, such as myself, were not wasted. More could have, honestly, been done to ensure an American partnership in the security of Iraq. Instead, in my opinion, bending to the political demands of a population unaware of the true nature of the conflict, the American withdrawal was allowed without an adequate plan to ensure the viability of Iraq's defenses. What followed, beginning in late 2012, should have been expected.

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