Christopher Hill and the Iraq War Legacy

The following article was published by Reidar Visser, an historian of Iraq educated at the University of Oxford and currently based at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. It is reproduced here with the author’s permission. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

In a recent opinion piece for CNN, Christopher Hill, the former US ambassador to Iraq who served there from April 2009 to August 2010, discusses the legacy of the Iraq War in light of the recent US decision to not seek a continued military presence beyond 2011. Among his key points is that it would be wrong to plunge into a discussion about “who lost Iraq”.

In defence of his position, Hill makes several arguments.

At times, Hill is telling us that the Iraq War was not truly winnable – in the sense that establishing a stable democracy there could be inherently problematic. The reason, according to Hill, is Iraq’s deep-rooted sectarian conflict. In Hill’s words, “the Shiite-Sunni divide in Iraq has been a fact in Iraq that has never gone away. Facts, so the expression goes, are stubborn things. Thirteen-hundred-year-old facts are especially stubborn things.”

At other times, Hill tells us that nonetheless, the United States did in fact win the war, since they installed Nuri al-Maliki as prime minister. In Hill’s view, Maliki will form some kind of anti-Iranian bulwark based on widespread anti-Iranian sentiment among the masses of Iraq’s Arab Shiites. Again, according to Hill, “Maliki is, to be sure, tough-minded and not easy to convince of things. But the notion that he is an Iranian sympathizer – as opposed to a highly nationalistic Iraqi – is based on no evidence at all…”

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