Today marked the withdrawal of US soldiers from Iraq’s major cities. The challenge now is before Iraq: will it stand or will it fall.
This is, after six years of US soldiers maintaining the peace and driving out militant forces, the first major test for Iraqis. I hope they pass it. Yes, US forces will still be on hand in case something major happens. Yes, a government is in place that has been functioning for a while. But the sectarian violence I feel has, potentially, just been waiting on the back burner.
The question is, will the cities disintegrate into violence, or will they stand up, and form communities, where dialogue and not rockets are exchanged? Or will it be proven that in a country divided as strongly across religious lines as Iraq, that you need a strong-man to keep the peace?
I am a big fan of self-rule, but also self-responsibility. There have been signs of this in Iraq, and in Pakistan. People taking up arms to drive out militant elements who mean them harm. Opposing groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. These are hopeful signs, as once moderate people are willing to sacrifice their lives for peaceful neighborhoods and against extremists, will self-rule and democracy have a chance in these countries.
I expect that it will be a week or two before we really find out what will start stirring in Iraq. People will not believe at first that there are no US troops in the cities (although some will still be embedded in domestic Iraqi units), then I believe there will be some violence as the pressure is released, and after that, I hope peace will return once people realize that they have only themselves to blame or congratulate for their child’s future, and for their nations.
A little national pride isn’t a bad thing.