Diary

An Attempt to understand Obama's views on Iraq

On Monday night Obama told Terry Moran that he would not have supported the surge even if he knew then that it would be so successful in enabling stability in Iraq.

Terry: If you had to do it over again knowing what you know now would you support the surge.

Barack: No. No because I… keep in mind that, that…

Terry: You wouldn’t.

Barack: …that ah well ya know keep keep in mind eh. These hypotheticals are very difficult. Ya know hind sight is 20/20. But I think that what I am absolutely convinced of is that ah at the time we had to change the political debate because the view of the ah Bush administration at that time was one that I just disagreed with.

20/20 hindsight shows that the surged worked, so he can’t mention that on 1/10/2007 he argued that the surge would increase violence. That would be admitting a failure in judgment. So instead the reason he gives for opposing the surge was that he felt it was necessary to discredit President Bush. But he does mention that at the time he believed he had a better plan.

So applying his 20/20 hindsight, does he still think his plan was better than Bush’s? In Jordan on 7/22/08 he told reporters:

And, finally, with respect to the surge, you know, we don’t know what would have happened if I — if the plan that I put forward in January 2007 to put more pressure on the Iraqis to arrive at a political reconciliation, to begin a phased withdrawal, what would have happened had we pursued that strategy.

And on the same day he told CBS’s Couric:

Katie, I have no idea what would have happened had we applied my approach, which was to put more pressure on the Iraqis to arrive at a political reconciliation. So this is all hypotheticals. What I can say is that there’s no doubt that our U.S. troops have contributed to a reduction of violence in Iraq.

"All hypotheticals"? Not exactly. Because Obama is still campaigning on implementing this very strategy/plan. What we have here then is an elementary question of judgment, a quality which Obama claims as his own uniquely great commendation.

In 20/20 hindsight Obama is clear that Bush’s plan worked and is working.

Couric: But talking microcosmically, did the surge, the addition of 30,000 additional troops … help the situation in Iraq?
Obama: Katie, as … you’ve asked me three different times, and I have said repeatedly that there is no doubt that our troops helped to reduce violence. There’s no doubt.

And since he has "no idea" about whether or not his plan would have worked is it his present judgment that this plan of his should be jettisoned in favor of Bush’s which is proven successful?

Well no. He still insists on implementing his plan going forward, regardless of the fact that our military commanders advise him against it. According to Moran "Obama said that he would give U.S. military commanders a new mission:"

for us to begin a phased redeployment at a pace of one to two brigades per month, at which point we would have our combat troops out in 16 months. That’s the goal that I’m setting…

[Petraeus] argument would be that might happen I just don’t want to be bound by a timeline. My argument would be we need to have some sort of time frame because we have to start planning if we want to get an additional two brigades in Afghanistan. We’ve got to start planning now.

My job is to think about the national security interests as a whole and to weigh and balance risks in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their job is just to get the job done here, and I completely understand that.

Perhaps he doesn’t realize yet that General Patreaus is also responsible for Afghanistan [UPDATE: LTG Martin Dempsey is acting CENTCOM Commander. Gen. Petraeus start date is yet TBA.] and as a result of conditioned based withdrawals the General will probably already have those additional troops on the way to Afghanistan by inauguration time 2009. At any rate, if you simply do the math, Obama’s "new mission" is not required in order to address his concerns about Afghanistan. We don’t have to completely pull out of Iraq to get two or three additional brigades in Afghanistan. So this is so-called argument of his is a loser, a extant bad judgment on his part.

So why is he still so committed to his "new mission: WITHDRAW" even when he admits he has no idea whether it will achieve political stability in Iraq? Perhaps the real reason is revealed here:

Couric: But yet you’re saying … given what you know now, you still wouldn’t support it … so I’m just trying to understand this.
Obama: Because … it’s pretty straightforward. By us putting $10 billion to $12 billion a month, $200 billion, that’s money that could have gone into Afghanistan. Those additional troops could have gone into Afghanistan. That money also could have been used to shore up a declining economic situation in the United States. That money could have been applied to having a serious energy security plan so that we were reducing our demand on oil, which is helping to fund the insurgents in many countries. So those are all factors that would be taken into consideration in my decision– to deal with a specific tactic or strategy inside of Iraq.

What this implies is that he considers political stability in Iraq to be an expendable goal. He prefers to give up on US hopes and gains in Iraq in order to free up resources for achieving a different set of priorities. No doubt many of his supporters do feel this way. This is a matter of judgment. If that is the point of stasis for the his disagreement with Bush and McCain, then that ought to be where our national debate is centered. So why is he engaging in this cat and mouse game rather than making his view clear and pounding out credible arguments for it? Why does he claim on his website:

Obama’s plan offers the best prospect for lasting stability in Iraq.

yet tell reporters "I have no idea what would have happened had we applied my approach"? 

Perhaps it is because regardless of what the polls once said he now believes that advocating that we give up our gains in Iraq is ultimately a political loser and also bad for national interests. But he is trapped in an anachronism. He doesn’t know how to break such a new perception of reality to his supporters and he is unwilling to take the political hit associated with admitting that his judgment was wrong. So he is currently betting on his ability to BS his way through this with a little abetting by a fawning MSM who will ultimately amplify the narrative supplied by his campaign and squelch the obvious thoughtful questions about the failures in his judgment.

Perhaps he also is audaciously hoping that Democrat leaders and pundits will soften up his supporters by taking the hit for being wrong before he does. Lanny Davis led the way on Monday. He will need many more for cover.

To those who have ears which can hear and eyes which can see, Obama’s judgment is not a pretty picture.