Definition – Russertism: In the characteristic fashion of the late Tim Russert, an inquiry raised by the juxtaposition of conflicting quotations or facts.
Here is the beginning of a list of Russertisms which may be appended from time to time.
And of course I am interested to see other’s Russertisms.
Alas, to hope they will be actually asked and answered; like channeling Tim Russert; far out maaan; too far out.
(NOTE: This diary is partially a repackaging of a previous diary and points made by others).
Beliefs and predictions in 2007 about the Surge’s impact on violence.
Now, I had no doubt — and I said at the time, when I opposed the surge, that given how wonderfully our troops perform, if we place 30,000 more troops in there, then we would see an improvement in the security situation and we would see a reduction in the violence.
I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse: I think it takes pressure off the Iraqis to arrive at the sort of political accommodation that every observer believes is the ultimate solution to the problems we face there. So I am going to actively oppose the president‘s proposal.
Do you believe you were making contradictory statements back in 2007 — alternately asserting the Surge would increase and decrease violence — or are you mistaken in 2008 about what you actually believed and said in 2007?
Tom Brokaw obliquely set up this Russertism on MTP 7/27/08 but did not directly pose the question above. In addressing the latter statement Obama said:
You know, we don’t know, because in my earlier statements–I mean, I know that there’s that little snippet that you ran, but there were also statements made during the course of this debate in which I said there’s no doubt that additional U.S. troops could temporarily quell the violence.
So in answer to the specific question raised, Obama does assert that he was making contradictory statements. (Though nowhere does he admit he was wrong to do so or mistaken.
The convergence between the Anbar Awakening and the Surge
In the Democrat debates in New Hampshire you causally associated the successes of the Anbar Awakening with your Democratic "pressure" strategy.
I would point out that much of that violence has been reduced because there was an agreement with tribes in Anbar province — Sunni tribes — who started to see, after the Democrats were elected in 2006, you know what, the Americans may be leaving soon, and we are going to be left very vulnerable to the Shi’as. We should start negotiating now. That’s how you change behavior.
Do you still believe that a withdrawal threat portended by the 2006 elections motivated the tribes’ turn against the jihadists and secured the successes in Anbar?
Are you now aware that by June 2005 there were numerous reports about the tribes fighting the jihadis? Are you aware that General Petraeus has stated that the Anbar awakening "started before the surge, but then was very much enabled by the surge?"
The answer here is yes. Obama said on MTP:
But, for example, in Anbar Province, where we went to visit, the Sunni awakening took place before the surge started, and tribal leaders made a decision that, instead of fighting the Americans, we’re going to work with the Americans against al-Qaeda. That was a political decision that was made that has made a huge difference in this entire process.
So this forcefully sets up the follow-on question below. And consequently another: How can you insist that Iraqi political progress will only come by withdrawing our troops now that you are asserting the military-backed American presence has been a key enabler of Iraqi political progress?
I think that, I did not anticipate, and I think that this is a fair characterization, the convergence of not only the surge but the Sunni awakening in which a whole host of Sunni tribal leaders decided that they had had enough with Al Qaeda, in the Shii’a community the militias standing down to some degrees. So what you had is a combination of political factors inside of Iraq that then came right at the same time as terrific work by our troops. Had those political factors not occurred, I think that my assessment would have been correct.
So you now understand that you made a bad assessment because you were uninformed regarding an essential opportunity factor — what was known (certainly by many Surge supporters) to be happening in Anbar?
And when you say this came "right at the same time as the terrific work by our troops" is it your belief that our troops were already supporting the Anbar realignment prior to the Surge? I ask it this way to clear up any confusion about what you meant by that phrase, since it is documented that general knowledge of the Anbar factors predated the Surge and thus would have presented as a classic counter-insurgency opportunity to the military in the field and the strategists designing and recommending the Surge. Or did you actually intend to deny the military that credit?
Withdrawal as the plan for creating stability in Iraq.
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 you 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.
Yet you are still insisting on the very same strategic approach.
In a 7/21/08 interview with ABC’s Terry Moran you insist on giving our troops "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.
and in your 7/14/08 op-ed in the NY Times you reason that:
Only by redeploying our troops can we press the Iraqis to reach comprehensive political accommodation and achieve a successful transition to Iraqis’ taking responsibility for the security and stability of their country.
Senator Obama, if you have no idea what would have happened if we applied your approach in January 2007 why should you or we have any confidence that approach would work if you applied it in January 2009?
More examination of the Motivation for the 16 Month Withdrawal Plan
You continue to insist on changing the mission in Iraq to withdrawal, specifically all combat troops within 16 months if and when you become president.
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.
First of all, you do understand that General Petraeus now has responsibility for Afghanistan as well as Iraq don’t you? [Update: My bad. LTG Martin Dempsey is acting commander. General Petraeus start date is TBA. Obama indicated in the 7/24/08 interview with NBC’s Brian Williams that he has the correct understanding of General Petraeus current responsibilities. He still gives him no credit for looking forward beyond Iraq though.]
What if, by your electoral good fortune, next January he tells you: "Good news sir. We have already withdrawn sufficient troops from Iraq and covered the increased troop needs in Afghanistan. As a matter of fact sir, weighing and balancing the risks in Afghanistan and Iraq never has required us to consider withdrawing all combat troops from Iraq."? Can you rationally sustain your argument to him that planning to get 2 of 3 more brigades into Afghanistan requires planning to get them all out of Iraq regardless of the conditions?
If supporting Afghanistan does not adequately explain your motivation for pulling all combat troops out of Iraq, then what is your controlling motivation? You told Katie Couric:
By us putting $10 billion to $12 billion a month, $200 billion, that’s money that 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.
So do you believe that stability in Iraq is an expendable goal? Are you willing to sacrifice it in order to achieve higher priorities such as the domestic ones you mentioned?
We now have Maliki leading a democracy in Iraq and our efforts are finally being rewarded with the credible belief that the Iraqis are achieving stability and independence. You opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning. Do you presently believe the USA and the world in general would be on balance better off if Sadam had been left in control in Iraq?