Well that was fast.
President Obama is already politicizing his withdrawal of troops from Iraq by year’s end, touting the move as a grand achievement and a campaign promise kept. The promptness with which Obama got down to politicizing his commander in chief role – he’s even already emailed his list of campaign supporters – begs the question of whether politics went into the decision and the process that led to the withdrawal.
Obama characterized the exodus from Iraq as an historic success. Actually, it’s a potentially epic failure that could create a vacuum in Iraq for Iran’s venomous mullahtocracy. And the sight of the president using his role as commander in chief to seize political capital is exceedingly tawdry.
Appearing in the Rose Garden Friday, Obama made a claim for the wonderfulness of it all.
After taking office, I announced a new strategy that would end our combat mission in Iraq and remove all of our troops by the end of 2011. As Commander-in-Chief, ensuring the success of this strategy has been one of my highest national security priorities . . .
Today, I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over.
But over the summer, according to the New York Times, senior American commander in Iraq Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III said he wanted to maintain as many as 14,000 to 18,000 troops in the country after the end of the year. He was overruled, and the White House negotiated with the Iraqis for a U.S. force of 3,000 to 4,000.
The lower number was panned by many analysts and by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) – who as the Times notes had visited Iraq many times – as insufficient to preserve all the U.S. work and sacrifice in Iraq.
And then, the administration FAILED, NOT SUCCEEDED, in its effort to maintain even this measly force in the country, with talks breaking down over whether U.S. troops would be immune from Iraqi law. But as Josh Rogin suggests in the Foreign Policy magazine blog The Cable, the administration negotiating strategy was at best flawed and at worst not designed to succeed, driven by domestic political needs to get troops out by the end of 2011 as promised.
After Obama spoke Friday, Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough was dispatched to the briefing room to sugarcoat the failure.
We talked about immunities, there’s no question about that . . . But the bottom line is, the decision that you heard the President talk about today is reflective of his view and the Prime Minister’s view of the kind of relationship that we want to have going forward . . . So we feel like we got exactly what we needed to protect our interests, and the Iraqis feel the same way.
If by “our interests” McDonough meant those of the Obama 2012 campaign, then he was correct. The end of the Iraq War will confirm Obama’s peacenik credentials with the Left and allow him to claim to the rest of the voting public that he’s a man who keeps his promises, even though he was supposedly negotiating with the Iraqis so that he could break the promise.
Friday, just hours after appearing in the Rose Garden, Obama sent a message to his vast campaign list proclaiming himself a good guy who makes history.
When I came into office, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end. As Commander in Chief, I ended our combat mission last year and pledged to keep our commitment to remove all our troops by the end of 2011 . . . This is a significant moment in our history.
This was followed Saturday by a missive from James Kvaal, the campaign policy director, who characterized the president as a peacemaker, a reliable type, and a man of “change” – as once advertised – who cleaned up the mess of the Bush years.
Yesterday, we accomplished one major change when President Obama announced that all American troops in Iraq will be home before the holidays.
The war in Iraq was a divisive, defining issue in our country for nearly nine years, and was the catalyst for many Americans to get involved in politics for the first time.
The end of this war reflects a larger transition in our foreign policy as, in the President’s words, “the tide of war is receding.” The drawdown in Iraq has allowed us to refocus on the fight against al Qaeda, even as we begin to bring troops home from Afghanistan. And of course, this week also marked the definitive end of the Qaddafi regime in Libya.
These outcomes are an example of what happens when a leader sets a plan and sees it through.
Obama’s political success is a foreign policy failure. He may have just handed back the Iraq victory George W. Bush had won. But as long as Iraq doesn’t fall apart before Election Day, this will be a central plank of the Obama campaign.