Diary

The Honeymoon Is Not Quite Over . . .

But while Barack Obama still has a lot of affection among antiwar types who saw him as a champion of their interests, that affection seems to be waning somewhat:

Antiwar groups and other liberal activists are increasingly concerned at signs that Barack Obama’s national security team will be dominated by appointees who favored the Iraq invasion and hold hawkish views on other important foreign policy issues.

The activists are uneasy not only about signs that both Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates could be in the Obama Cabinet, but at reports suggesting that several other short-list candidates for top security posts backed the decision to go to war.

“Obama ran his campaign around the idea the war was not legitimate, but it sends a very different message when you bring in people who supported the war from the beginning,” said Kelly Dougherty, executive director of the 54-chapter Iraq Veterans Against the War.

The activists — key members of the coalition that propelled Obama to the White House — fear he is drifting from the antiwar moorings of his once-longshot presidential candidacy. Obama has eased the rigid timetable he had set for withdrawing troops from Iraq, and he appears to be leaning toward the center in his candidates to fill key national security posts.

Obviously, in the flush of victory, the President-elect’s base is not going to abandon him. But while Barack Obama may seek some leeway in dealing with Iraq and Afghanistan, it appears that the antiwar movement is in no mood to grant any further elbow room to the new Administration.

The question now is whether the incoming Administration will be able to determine its Iraq policy by conditions on the ground, or whether it will have that policy dictated to it by its domestic political constituency. Things are going much better in Iraq thanks to the surge and the implementation of the counterinsurgency strategy but defeat may yet be snatched from the jaws of victory. If the antiwar movement has its way, it will be. Will the incoming President indeed let them have their way?

Boy, it’s really uncomfortable worrying about these kinds of things, isn’t it? It would be a relief if the President-elect would tell us that now that the election is over and now that he has something of a breather from the process of running around and promising everything to everyone in exchange for some votes, he will do the right thing by America and Iraq and make sure that his policy in Iraq matches the conditions on the ground. Alas, we are not likely to get such an announcement from the President-elect. After all, Barack Obama is not the Messiah. He is just another politician.