President Obama’s failure to leave any troops in Iraq is already threatening to become a devastating election issue for him, one the president assuredly deserves.
As I’ve written, Obama’s dismissal of his generals’ requests for up to 18,000 troops to remain in the country in order to secure the peace and rebuff Iranian influence – and his half hearted effort to maintain a presence of even a few thousand – is a mistake that could ruin the victory George W. Bush handed him.
The move is so inexplicable that it’s fair to ask whether Obama wanted a campaign slogan – “I ended a war” – more than he cared about U.S. strategic interests.
The day after the last U.S. troops departed this week, Iraq’s Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued an arrest warrant for the Sunni vice president. The vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, charged that Iran was the puppeteer behind Maliki. And Maliki also pushed for the ouster of his own deputy prime minister, another Sunni, who called Maliki a “dictator.” Then, a series of explosions in Baghdad killed dozens of people.
With all U.S. troops out of the country, our leverage has declined precipitously, and those who would seek to control the country by force are clearly emboldened.
If Iraq starts to disintegrate, Obama will correctly be under political attack for having failed to honor the enormous U.S. sacrifice in Iraq by safeguarding our achievements.
He’ll try to frame his failure as the inevitable result of Bush’s decision to invade the country. Which would be deeply ironic, since he will be happily campaigning on Bush’s success if things work out.
We already know, because we heard it from Obama, that the continued U.S. economic weakness is Bush’s fault. Soon it will be Iraq. And my understanding from sources deep within the White House is that there is also consideration of blaming Bush for the lack of a white Christmas in the Northeast, but that this is still under review.