Iraq: Mis­sion Ac­com­plished

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

Pres­i­dent Obama con­stantly be­moans all the trou­bles he says he in­her­ited from Ge­orge Bush, but has never given Pres­i­dent Bush due credit for the U.S. victory in Iraq. The for­mer pres­i­dent’s name was con­spic­u­ously ab­sent from Mr. Obama’s re­marks in late Fe­bru­ary an­nounc­ing the pull­out of Amer­i­can troops from Iraq, a pull­out made pos­si­ble by strate­gic de­ci­sions made by Pres­i­dent Bush in 2007, which Mr. Obama con­sis­tently op­posed.

Pres­i­dent Obama claims that the with­drawal plan ful­fils one of his cam­paign prom­ises, but the pull­out he promised, at the time he first promised it, would have been an ad­mis­sion of Amer­i­can de­feat fol­lowed by sec­tar­ian melt­down in Iraq. Barack Obama had never shown an ad­e­quate grasp of the mil­i­tary sit­u­a­tion in Iraq, and was con­sis­tently wrong about the surge strat­egy that brought about this victory. On Jan. 10, 2007, when the surge was an­nounced, he said the de­ploy­ment of ad­di­tional troops would in­crease sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence. It didn’t.

Af­ter the 2007 State of the Union ad­dress he said, “I don’t think the pres­i­dent’s strat­egy is go­ing to work,” and rec­om­mended the eu­phemistic “phased re­de­ploy­ment,” i.e., cut­ting and run­ning. In the sum­mer of 2007, as lev­els of vi­o­lence plum­meted, he my­opi­cally said, “My as­sess­ment is that the surge has not worked.”

In Novem­ber 2007, two months af­ter Gen­eral David Pe­traeus tes­ti­fied to Congress in de­tail about the suc­cesses of the surge, he dug him­self a deeper hole, fatu­ously say­ing, “Not only have we not seen im­prove­ments, but we’re ac­tu­ally wors­en­ing, po­ten­tially, a sit­u­a­tion there.” Thus his fail­ure to ad­mit that he had been wrong, and stub­born un­will­ing­ness to rec­og­nize those who got it right (the very things said ear­lier of Mr. Bush), are telling.

Mr. Obama’s speech on Feb. 27 marked a de­fin­i­tive break with the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s winning strat­egy, a point he re­peat­edly made clear. He should be care­ful what he wishes for, since from his own lips comes con­fir­ma­tion that any­thing that hap­pens from this point for­ward, good or ill, is his re­spon­si­bil­ity.

Mr. Obama will pre­side over the chang­ing of the guard to Iraq, which will last al­most three years, with the ini­tial com­bat force draw­down last­ing around 18 months. The pres­i­dent stated plainly that “by Aug. 31, 2010, our com­bat mis­sion in Iraq will end.” But oth­ers may have a say in that. Mak­ing a hard and fast dead­line ac­tu­ally in­creases the po­lit­i­cal im­pact of in­sur­gent at­tacks made af­ter that date, be­cause it will place the pres­i­dent in the po­si­tion of ei- ther hav­ing to ex­tend his dead­line, or ob­du­rately ad­here to a pol­icy that may im­peril Iraq.

For those in­ter­ested in Viet­nam analo­gies, it is worth not­ing that there were 27 months from the sign­ing of the Paris Peace Ac­cords to the fall of Saigon.

Much of the rest of the pres­i­dent’s speech sounded very much like the “ca­pac­ity build­ing” agenda that had al­ready be­gun un­der Pres­i­dent Bush — in­creas­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties of Iraq’s se­cu­rity forces, pro­mot­ing po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity, un­der­tak­ing in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ments, etc. — so there was re­ally noth­ing new in terms of those ob­jec­tives. Whether the plan can be ex­e­cuted re­mains to be seen. The bot­tom line is, Ge­orge Bush left Mr. Obama with a war won that is now his to lose. Mr. Obama’s pull­out plan is an­other way of say­ing, “mis­sion ac­com­plished.”

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