July 19, 2008

What has Obama said about Iraq?

Jim Lindgren:
Indeed, I was happy to see that [McCain's new ad] included a brief example of his view before he started running for President that we should NOT pull out of Iraq because of the destruction that would result from our leaving. This is the position he took in "The Audacity of Hope." Most people think that Obama always opposed continuing the war and always favored pulling out fairly quickly.

Personally, I would prefer that, should Obama clearly pivot on what to do in Iraq, he not be attacked by either the left or the right for flip-flopping, but rather commended for responding to new realities. After all, he is likely to be President, and the earlier he takes a more mature position on the war, the likelier he is to stick with it. Indeed, that Obama has been so slow even to begin changing his position is a worrisome sign. Even if Obama does change his views and decide to stay in Iraq and win a war that is now probably winnable, I wonder whether when he takes office he has the courage to disappoint his supporters, especially when he has to deal with, not only his extravagant promises, but the families of dead soldiers.

One thing I find disturbing about the Obama clips and some recent public comments is the degree to which he is trying to rewrite the history of what his positions were, particularly on the surge. Obama was wrong on the main foreign policy issue of his brief time in the US Senate, the surge, and he should correct his position as quickly and as forthrightly as is politically possible, not pretend that he always thought that the surge would work to reduce violence.
Here's the McCain ad he's talking about.

33 comments:

Chip Ahoy said...

As I've said many times, what I've said all along, the thing I've always maintained, if you had been listening, hope and change are a miraculous combination.

*glows*

Now get on the bandwagon!

Pogo said...

Most people think that Obama always opposed continuing the war and always favored pulling out fairly quickly.

I wonder why most people thought that?

Meade said...

In case Harry Reid turned out to be right, silly.

Bissage said...

Obama lied. My eggs were fried.

P. Rich said...

Must be difficult, constantly explaining to the world how one is never wrong in the face of countless contradictory statements. For the Obamessiah, though, such tasks are stoutly undertaken in the sure knowledge that swooning masses will continue to attend. It's just a matter of time until this headline appears in the NYT:

Democratic Candidate Achieves Perfection - Pope Resigns

garage mahal said...

The old war sucks and after 5 years everyone hates it. Let's wipe the slate clean - put a bunch of terrorists on our payroll- and rename it. We'll call it....."The Surge!".

vbspurs said...

Iraq? We won. *shrug*

Obama's position makes him as irrevelant as Charles Lindbergh in WWII.

Cheers,
Victoria

Michael_H said...

I believe Obama's position(s) on the Iraq War can best be described as the 'Hokey Pokey' strategy.

Sing along with me!

You pull the military out
You put the military in
You pull the military out
And you re-deploy them all about
You do the Hokey Pokey and you
Change your positions 'round
That's what it's all about.

You lie to your friends
Then you work to make amends
Then you lie once again
And the sycophants shout "Amen"
You do the Hokey Pokey and you
Change your positions 'round
That's what it's all about.

vbspurs said...

Nice, Michael_H.

Doin' the Hokey Pokey works really well to fight the ennui during a summer day in the Chicago projects.

It just isn't good foreign policy.

Sloanasaurus said...

Obama was willing to accept defeat in Iraq. He saw defeat as a better option than the costs of staying and winning. He wanted us to pull out. He voted to defund the troops.

President Bush did not see defeat as a option and changed strategy rather than accept defeat. Fortuantely for us and the world, President Bush was in charge and Obama was not.

Why would anyone vote for a candidate who desired defeat in Iraq? Will Obama make the same mistake if he is president? Would Obama accept defeat over trying again for victory in some other conflict. Why would our troops fight for Obama if they know he has weak knees to begin with?

How would Obama have behaved in Lincoln's shoes in early 1864? Fortunately for us, Lincoln was in charge and not Obama.

Sloanasaurus said...

The old war sucks and after 5 years everyone hates it. Let's wipe the slate clean - put a bunch of terrorists on our payroll- and rename it. We'll call it....."The Surge!".

I know guys like you. The ones who spit on the troops as they come home from the war. See you at the next protest.

Cyrus Pinkerton said...

Lindgren makes the mistake that most rightwingers make--that is, he asserts that the surge has worked even though it's simply too early to declare success. Rightwingers understood this principle in the first few months of the surge, but as reported violence has been reduced, they have since forgotten it.

The surge should be judged relative to the goals outlined when the surge strategy was announced. Moreover, it's sensible to wait at least until the surge ends before declaring that senators were "right" or "wrong" in their position on this foreign policy issue.

In any case, it seems that Lindgren is not particularly bright since he undercuts his own argument when he refers to the Iraq war as "probably winnable." If, as he suggests, it is only probable that the war can be won, then he implicitly acknowledges that the surge could still prove unsuccessful, and therefore it is obviously premature to assert that Obama was "wrong" about the surge.

It would be nice for a change if partisan hacks like Lindgren would sit down and shut up so that discussions of foreign policy aren't so childish. Unfortunately, that's too much to hope for, particularly in an election year.

Cyrus Pinkerton said...

Sloan wrote:

Why would anyone vote for a candidate who desired defeat in Iraq?

This is really very simpleminded. Do you seriously believe that Obama "desired defeat in Iraq?" Is your view of the world genuinely this simple?

Kansas City said...

Cyrus,

If you think Lindgren and republicans calling the surge a success today are premature because it has not yet ended, what is your view of all the democrats who declared the surge a failure as long as a year ago? This includes Obama, although he might not have used the precise word failure.

Sloan's language that Obama "desired defeat" in Iraq may be overstated, but you did not, and presumably understand that you cannot, dispute his principal point that "Obama was willing to accept defeat in Iraq. He saw defeat as a better option than the costs of staying and winning. He wanted us to pull out. He voted to defund the troops."

My view is that: (1) there is a reasonable argument that in 2002, when Obama had no responsibility on the issue, he was correct in opposing the Iraq war (although that is far from certain and, in view of the left wing crowd Obama ran with at the time, he hardly was going to take any other position); and (2) it is pretty obvious that in 2007, when Obama actually had responsibility, he was clearly wrong on the surge.

Cyrus Pinkerton said...

Kansas City,

In the first few months of the surge, I chided those who declared the surge strategy a failure. Although I agreed with rightwingers on judging the surge in the long term, my position reflected a matter of principle, not partisan politics. In fact, I am on record with a warning to rightwingers that I would hold them to the same standard should the outlook in Iraq improve. Predictably they have been babbling about how the surge was the "right" strategy ever since the first reports of reduction in violence in Iraq.

The fact that partisan politics trumps principle doesn't surprise me, but the fact that so many political commenters are either unaware or unashamed of their hypocrisy is discouraging.

In reference to my reply to Sloan, you wrote:

[Obama] saw defeat as a better option than the costs of staying and winning.

No, that is incorrect. As there was (and is) no guarantee that staying in Iraq would (or will) result in "winning," the analysis is far more complicated. It's also true that there was (and is) no certainty that leaving would (or will) result in "defeat." To the extent that any politician thinks carefully about the issue, the choice is between the cost of a given strategy and the likelihood of success of that strategy. Among those politicians who actually considered the issue intelligently (and I suspect the number who did isn't particularly high), each will certainly have reached different conclusions about the probability of success of any given strategy and made different estimates of the associated costs. As such, Obama may well have judged that the surge strategy was unlikely to significantly increase the likelihood of long term success in Iraq and but would significantly increase the war costs. Such a position hardly corresponds to choosing defeat instead of victory.

Of course, it's still too early to gauge whether Iraq will be a "success" in the long term, and it's impossible to determine the result had the surge strategy not been employed. About all we know in the short term is that reported violence in Iraq has been reduced at increased cost to us. I'm not ready to judge that result as representing long term success or failure of the surge strategy.

Finally, you conclude your remarks with this:

[I]t is pretty obvious that in 2007, when Obama actually had responsibility, he was clearly wrong on the surge.

For reasons stated previously, I disagree. It's simply too early to pass judgment on long term success in Iraq, much less "right" and "wrong" positions on the surge. Moreover, I think the claim that Obama was "wrong" based on a short term view of events in Iraq is reckless. Conditions in Iraq can change fairly quickly and this partisan nonsense may well come back to bite its proponents in the ass.

Cedarford said...

vbspurs - Obama's position makes him as irrevelant as Charles Lindbergh in WWII.

You might wish to read up on what Lindbergh did in WWII. He achieved a 50% increase in range in P-38fighters with a device that allowed pilots to "fuel-lean" their engines when at altitude and cruising. Something that astonished the manufacturers, Navy, and MacArthur and led to his getting the highest military award for a civilian after the War was over. (His WWII feats were many, and his in-depth knowledge of the German air force and it's tactics was extensively debriefed by the Army AF and the Royal AF prior to and during WWII.) He also figured out how to get Marine Corsairs to take-off safely with double the ordnance load the manufacturers set. He did B-24 bomber improvements at Willow Run and boosted bomber production with insights into how components could be altered slightly to allow mass production and no human finishing that would do the job as well as a part that took several people working for hours to make in early bomber runs. He went out on combat missions (50) as a pilot and shot down a Jap plane and strafed Jap troop concentrations before someone in FDR's camp figured out what he was doing and yanked him back Stateside. His combat comrades said he was supremely skilled, brave, and humble - "Legends are for writers, I'm just Chuck, and I'm on your wing."

In recognition of his WWII achievements, Eisenhower restored Lindbergh's commission, promoted him to brigadeer General and put him to work as a consultant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and one of the architects of the new Air Force.

Jews prominent in the US media attempted over the years to demythologize Lindbergh as an isolationist and appeaser who the Nazis thought was hot stuff, and who was in some sort of disgrace and pariah status during and after WWII.
Their narrative does not reflect reality. It did have an effect on Lindbergh's later popularity, but as a guy who didn't like being a celebrity, that much, it apparantly didn't bother him that much.

He was helping set AF policy and tactics into the 60s, he went into writing, film consulting, and was an early environmentalist.

When NASA selected it's first batch of astronauts for "The Right Stuff" - a checklist of some 60 mental and physiological attributes - the Astronauts were only told later that the checklist was based on what scientists, psychologists, and MDs found from examining Charles Lindbergh.

The guy remains the gold standard of flyers and people that admire someone for taking an unpopular stand and taking the heat like a man.
A rumor has it that when Chuck Yaeger became popular ten years after Lindberghs death as the current living exemplar of "The Right Stuff", a person asked him how he rated next to Lindbergh in contributing to the country, aviation, the space program.

Gen Yaeger stooped and clipped his ankle with his right hand. "Me". Then stretched his right hand well above his head - "Lindbergh".

Kansas City said...

cedarford,

Fascinating stuff on Lindberg. I had no idea.

dualdiagnosis said...

Obama cannot for even a second conceive of putting the country first, ahead of his personal ambitions. His positions are not made with any real conviction because he has none. The author of this piece, although a fan, knows this instinctively, that's why he expects that there is even more creative pivoting ahead.

McCain was willing to chance losing out on winning the primaries and even the Presidency by standing up for what he believed was the right course in Iraq.

Who would make a better Commander in Chief, the man who would rather stay in the hell of the Hanoi Hilton rather the risk dishonor or the guy who rides around on a magic pony tossing family members and close friends overboard at the first hint of trouble?

Cyrus Pinkerton said...

Hey, Cedarford checked in with another of his "observations" about Jews.

Business as usual at Althouse.

Palladian said...

Oh blow it out your ass, Amanda.

Kansas City said...

Cyrus,

Thanks for the thoughtful and respectful response.

You are correct in criticizing the partisan divide on the Iraq War. It has been disgraceful and, I believe, motivated largely by the democrats' lust to get back in power.

You also make a very interesting point that "it's impossible to determine the result had the surge strategy not been employed." This is, of course, correct, especially in the long run (short run, it likely would have been bad in terms of the continued "civil war" that our media and democrats talked about endlessly).

The reason I think it is an interesting point is because it also applies to the decision to go to war in Iraq. The critics never acknowledge the downside of leaving Hussein and, worse yet, his sons in power for the next 50 years and the evils they would have imposed on the world. They get away with the banality that we could have "contained him." No one can be certain about whether the Iraq war was the right call, and there are certainly reasonable arguments against it, but it did undeniably accomplish the good of removing evil people from power and preventing whatever horrors they would have perpetrated.

You also make valid points about the semantics and meaning of "winning" and "defeat;" however, I think the record is pretty clear that Obama and company called for withdrawal on the grounds that victory was not possible and in a manner that would have been perceived as defeat.

Finally, you disagree with my view that Obama was clearly wrong on the surge, because you point out it is "too early to pass judgment on long term success in Iraq, much less "right" and "wrong" positions on the surge." You are correct with respect to the long term assessment, but my point that Obama was wrong on the surge is still correct because he specifically said the surge would not diminish the violence and would, possibly, increase the violence. So he clearly was wrong in his view of the effect of the surge, regardless of whether long term the surge and related operations are a success in the big picture view of Iraq.

Cyrus Pinkerton said...

Wow, Palladian, you've really upped your game. Usually you just throw out a lame insult, but this time you've dug deep into your fantasy life to come up with a real zinger. Ouch!

Which reminds me... Isn't it about time for Althouse to brag about her great commenters again?

Revenant said...

Obama's attempt to shift position and lie about his past is typical of politics, and further undermines his claim to be a new kind of politician. Not that anyone with common sense actually believed that to begin with, of course.

But at least he's changing his position for the better.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I'm really glad to see Obama admit that the surge is has reduced the violence in Iraq. Just as I am glad when people who used to believe in creationism change to believe in intelligent design. I still disagree with their conclusions, but at least we are drawing our conclusions from the same set of facts.

That is a big step forward.

Revenant said...

Just as I am glad when people who used to believe in creationism change to believe in intelligent design

What's the change? Intelligent design is a subset of creationism.

Palladian said...

"What's the change? Intelligent design is a subset of creationism."

Creationism dressed up in a cheap tuxedo.

Fen said...

Somebody lend Amanda a hand. Those goalposts look heavy.

The short version: if Obama had been POTUS instead of Bush, he would have ditched the surge and Petraeus's COIN strategy, not only losing Iraq to the terrorists, but also abandoning everything we've learned from our earlier mistakes.

It would be like pulling Patton from Africa just as he's learning how to defeat German Armor.

freshlegacy said...

In response to fen, I am inclined to disagree that Obama would have ditched the surge. It's becoming clear to most of us that Obama is just a conventional politician. He has created a fantasy that he is something different, something better, but the reality is he is just another guy with a burning urge, as George Will said of Bill Clinton, to BE President rather than to accomplish something.

Accordingly, I suspect a President Obama would turn out to be a fairly conventional US leader, especially on most foreign policy issues. This would badly disappoint his supporters, both here and in Europe and the Middle East, but his charm and personality may ameliorate the damage to his standing to some extent.

This means there is probably no serious harm that would come from electing Obama president. Most policies in effect today would probably continue much as they are (not exactly, of course, but I'm thinking in general terms). Of course, it also means there is no compelling reason to vote FOR Obama either.

A President Obama might well be lucky enough to inherit an Iraq that is ripe for American withdrawal along the lines he has proposed, if only because the Bush / Petraeus strategy has yielded a measure of success. By virtue of lucky timing, Obama benefits from the best of both worlds, a possibly stable Iraq from which we can withdraw with a clear conscience.

In like manner, a President Obama might benefit from a recovering economy, and thus get credit for something he himself did not impact.

I don't think American policy in Iraq will materially change all that much if Barack Obama is elected president.

AlanDownunder said...

The most "mature" position on war with Iraq was not to have started it. That was Obama's position. I'd trust him to clean up after the immature more than I would trust the immature to clean up after themselves. Denial of one's immaturity can only distorts one's response to its consequences.

Revenant said...

The most "mature" position on war with Iraq was not to have started it.

That's very interesting, but we're speaking in the present tense here. We're already in Iraq; the mature position is to finish the job.

You tell your friend not to get drunk, because something bad will happen. He gets drunk anyway and trashes your neighbor's lawn. Is the mature thing to do (a) tell him to fix the place up again or (b) tell him to bail? That's not a tough question to answer, even if you think it would have been more mature not to get drunk in the first place. Part of maturity is taking responsibility for your *immature* actions.

blake said...

The most "mature" position on war with Iraq was not to have started it.

How is that "mature"? Certainly one can argue right or wrong, but mature versus immature?

And how is it more mature to threaten our allies, for that matter, as Obama has suggested. Or to sing about bombing Iran, as McCain has done?

AlanDownunder said...

I pretty much agree, Blake. Lindren used the word "mature". I just riffed on it, but I do find it ridiculous the way the war-mongers keep writing that they were and are the "serious" and "mature" ones. If those words mean anything in this context, the opposite is clearly the case.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

What's the change? Intelligent design is a subset of creationism.

Creationism stated that the earth was created ~5000 years ago. Their 'scientific' efforts were directed at discounting all the evidence to the contrary.

Intelligent design accepts the fact that more complex species evolved from earlier species. It only disagrees as to whether the changes involved happened at random. Since it is impossible to prove that a random event is in fact random, they are no longer arguing against the facts. The are only arguing about what conclusions to draw. I see that as a big step forward.

Same with Obama.