Do read the whole thing, of course, but that line was worth highlighting. As is the following:
At the risk of heading into la-la land, I think Obama should have tipped his hat ever so slightly today to President Bush, Sen. McCain, and other Republicans who had supported the surge strategy, naming them and thanking them. Of course, there’s no telling how Iraq would look today had the surge never happened, but it’s likely that conditions would be pretty grim and that this withdrawal plan would have the smell of defeat to it, rather than the opposite, as it does.
Obama could have caveated this to death — “I opposed Bush’s decision to begin this war, I opposed how he sold it to America, I opposed the way he prosecuted it,” etc. But he could have recognized that Bush’s decision to change strategies in 2007 is in large part why the security situation in Iraq has turned around more than anyone could have hoped, why we can now begin drawing down our forces with a good measure of confidence, and why our troops now feel more and more that their sacrifice is worth it.
Not only would this have been magnanimous, it would have been smart politics. It would have acknowledged the bipartisanship that underlies the decision to begin bringing our troops home by drawing an important line of continuity through our Iraq efforts of the past two years. It would have disarmed Obama’s more hawkish critics on Iraq by conceding their point on the surge and turning it into an argument for the drawdown, which it is. And it would have shown Republicans that Obama is committed not just to a bipartisanship of style but of substance — not just being willing to recognize when the other side has valid points, but actually incorporating them into one’s own thinking.
The President should have taken Brose’s advice. He would have found much to praise in the Bush Administration’s implementation of the surge and the counterinsurgency strategy. On this issue, see also my contribution to the Arena.