Mixed feelings are the common response to the news that the United States has completed the terms of our treaty and withdrawn from Iraq. That is appropriate; there is substantial uncertainty about Iraq's future and there is a level of ongoing violence that belies the term peace.
However, I would argue that celebration is also appropriate. I'm glad that we were able to end ahead of schedule giving the recently deployed a chance to celebrate the holidays at their home. The withdrawal completes a process of de-escalation that first saw troops pulled out of Iraqi cities and then out of the country entirely. As one might expect, this process involved steady declines in the level of violence directly precipitated by the U.S. occupation. While there are still Americans in Iraq who will maintain our relationship with that country and at times be in harm's way, the withdrawal is no illusion; the change has been significant and I suspect any attempts to reverse it would be politically disastrous.
There are those that argue that while this may prove temporarily good news for us, it will come at Iraq's or ultimately our expense. I would counter with my second reason to celebrate: we chose to respect the will of the Iraqi people as expressed through their nascent, troubled, and yet still somewhat democratic institutions. To the right, you can see the parliamentary vote on the Status of Forces Agreement that set our deadline for departure, an agreement that had been negotiated under President Bush. The abstentions are certainly troubling, but I have seen no evidence that they, let alone the Sadrist-dominated no voters, favored a less restrictive agreement. After we returned sovereignty to the Iraqi government they are without question the competent authority under just war theory to determine whether America's involvement should continue. They decided it should not, at least not under conditions acceptable to the U.S. government. Arguments about whether we could achieve a better result by staying longer should only come into play after answering the question about whether we have the authority to stay.
Thus while there are many to mourn, an overabundance of regrets, and a widespread sentiment that the war was a mistake, I would argue that we should celebrate its end. The return home of our troops, the reduction of violence that we're participating in, and the triumph of treaty law in dictating the timeline are all outcomes worth celebrating.
As ever, I speak for myself and not my employer.