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Obama spins the surge
Posted by: McQ on Sunday, January 06, 2008

The most ludicrous moment of last night's Democratic debate (and there were many of them) took place when all 4 of the candidates went out of their way to deny the surge had done any good, or if it did, it was because of the Democrats. Barack Obama, who explained his version of why the "awakening", aka bottom-up reconciliation, took place, was perhaps the most obvious:
What we have to do is to begin a phased redeployment to send a clear signal to the Iraqi government that we are not going to be there in perpetuity. Now, it will — we should be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in. I welcome the genuine reductions of violence that have taken place, although I would point out that much of that violence has been reduced because there was an agreement with tribes in Anbar province — Sunni tribes — who started to see, after the Democrats were elected in 2006, you know what, the Americans may be leaving soon, and we are going to be left very vulnerable to the Shi'as. We should start negotiating now. That's how you change behavior.

And that's why I will send a clear signal to the Iraqi government. They will have ample time to get their act together, to actually pass an oil law, which has been — they've been talking about now for years.
That, of course, is abject nonsense, as the awakening had begun well before that was clear (review Michael Yon's writings for proof). The reason the Sunnis chose the Americans and the strategy of alliance is because we had shown we wouldn't quit and we were the better choice between al Qaeda and ourselves. Plus, the Sunnis had decided they'd made a mistake by refusing to participate in the electoral process and the politics of Iraq and knew that the Americans were the only ones who could guarantee their reentry.

To claim Democrats are the reason for the awakening (in reality, the Sunnis couldn't have cared less who was running the Congress at the time or who might be running it in the future at the time of the decision) and thus the success of the surge is simply a political fairy-tale. And Obama and Bill Richardson also claimed that absolutely no progress had been made at the national government level, which Charlie Gibson, to his ever lasting credit, pointed out was not true (see linked transcript).

I also got the impression that Democrats couldn't wait to get off of the subject of Iraq and on to other issues. They sounded exceedingly "dated" when they talked about the need to pull out now in the face of the success now beginning to dawn in Iraq.

BTW, I liked this debate format much better than previous debates. I'd like to see it become standard for future debates as well.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

I honestly don’t think that Obama has a clue about Iraq. It’s an abstraction to him, and in that sense only an abstraction as a political issue. He’s Oprah’s candidate because he is Oprah, a therapeutic counselor of "Hope!" But it’s "Hope!," not hope connected to the real. It’s a disconnected hope, generalized for Oprah’s audience, which is clearly Obama’s focus group.

I guess what I’m saying here is that even for a politician Obama is pretty dumb; he’s Dennis Kucinich with a presentable demeanor.

Jack Kennedy was no genius, but he had the advantage of having spent nearly a decade on the edge of death when he entered the White House. Add in the extreme measures used to keep him alive and going, and you have a set of circumstances that tends to focus the mind. Hence, JFK’s charisma came up through him from a deep well of fate.

Obama is a cartoon JFK, just as Bill Clinton was a plaster of paris JFK. Neither has any real charisma: they only have supporter desperate for charisma, and waiting for that "next Kennedy," God help us, and willing to find it in someone.
Written By: Martin McPhillips
Obama’s case is strong — 2007 was the deadliest year for American troops in Iraq. Violence really started to decrease well into 2007, not before. So to say that progress was taking place before the Democratic electoral victory is a weak case. Still, I think it’s more Bush’s conversion to realism and the recognition that victory in Iraq is impossible — we need a ’peace with honor’ moment rather than some kind of victory — is the key to the change.

But the Democrats will be able to use this kind of spin effectively, and Iraq looks now like things might be going south again, so who knows what the year will be? But the alternative reality in a few right wing blogs that somehow Iraq is a success just ain’t gonna play. It’s a delusion.
Written By: Scott Erb
The thing that irritated me the most about the few Obama respsonses I actually could stand to watch was the Nuclear Proliferation question.

Instead of a serious detailed answer about what he would do, he spun it into a purely partisan blame Bush response. I’m not overly surprised a candidate would do this, but so much for Obama’s "uniter" facade.
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
Boris Erb:
Obama’s case is strong — 2007 was the deadliest year for American troops in Iraq.
I guess facts do lie. No year in Iraq has ever been truly deadly for the U.S., in the sense of traditional warfare, but this one saw initially higher casualties because we were more aggressively in the face of the enemy, killing him. The purpose was to destroy him in his strongholds and take away his ability to intimidate the population.

That you write that sentence the way you did shows what a complete nincompoop you are, Boris.

By the end of the year the was a wholesale reduction in American casualites and in civil violence as a whole. Which was the point of the Surge.

Why does this have to be repeated so many times for you?
Written By: Martin McPhillips
Obama is not telling the truth. He cannot be that stupid.

The Sunni tribes began to revolt against al Qaeda when the US forces could ensure their success and allay their fears of the Shiite Baghdad government. These tribes were our enemies before the surge; now they are our allies. Last week, General Barry McCaffrey (a Clintonista) admits that al Qaeda has been tactically defeated in Iraq. That means we won.

When we fight a war, soldiers die. Engaging al Qaeda in the tribal areas increased the level of violence. This Fall and Winter, violence is one third what it was last year. We held the field; Al Qaeda, lost their sanctuaries, ran away and are being slaughtered by Iraqis. That, too, means we won.
Written By: Arch
URL: http://
It’s nice to see folks on the right acknowledge that the Anbar awakening didn’t start because of the surge. It didn’t take a crystal ball for Iraqis of all stripes to see that US public opinion had clearly and unequivocally turned against the occupation of Iraq by September 2006. The 2006 election proved it. The few foreign jihadis who call themselves Al Qaeda do what they always do, murder mayhem, and spectacularly disgusting attempts at intimidation. The Gestapo wouldn’t lose a battle for hearts and minds against those clowns. It isn’t Bush’s "steely resolve" or Petraeus’ "brilliant" strategy. But for all that, Maliki’s government refuses to follow up. There is no political reconciliation in Iraq. And without it there will be
no peace.
Written By: markg8
URL: http://
It’s nice to see folks on the right acknowledge that the Anbar awakening didn’t start because of the surge.
No one here has ever claimed it did. It was part of the reason the surge has succeeded as well as it has.

But it certainly had nothing to do with Democrats and their threats either. And it would be nice to see some "acknowledgment" of that as well.
It isn’t Bush’s "steely resolve" or Petraeus’ "brilliant" strategy.
Nonsense - there’s no reason to team up with the Americans if you think their going to quit the place. Common Sense 101 - a class much of the left seems to have skipped.
Written By: McQ
Give Petraeus and Bush credit.

The General did a brilliant job of dividing the enemy with words and deeds, not force of arms. His strategy is forcing the Maliki government to reconcile with the Sunni tribes who are now able to ensure their own security and seal the border with Syria. For centuries, the tribes of Anbar raided and smuggled along the Damascus-Baghdad routes. Without their support, al Qaeda in Iraq was cut off from resupply and reinforcement.

Bush followed the advice of the Big Army generals in Baghdad and Washington until he realized there was a better course of action - Petraeus’ COIN.

Iraqis are tired of war, destruction and senseless slaughter. The clerics are coming together and they will reach a consensus on oil, local autonomy and security. Isn’t that what we always wanted?
Written By: Arch
URL: http://
Martin McPhillips:
He’s Oprah’s candidate because he is Oprah, a therapeutic counselor of "Hope!"
Thats a brilliant line. May I use it in the future? =P
Written By: Jimmy the Dhimmi
I doubt that a Democrat President emerging from the 2008 election will dramatically change our commitment to Iraq anymore than a Democrat President emerging from the 1992 election changed our commitment to Iraq, or a Republican President emerging from the 2000 election changed our commitment to Iraq.

Written By: Eric Chen
URL: http://
Also, I am comfortable with the idea of Obama winning the presidency because I firmly disbelieve he would surrender or otherwise act rash and irresponsibly about Iraq if he was President. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a fellow Columbian, either.

Written By: Eric Chen
URL: http://
Foreign policy is not Obama’s strong suit, so he probably won’t rock any boats and his advisors will keep him from making any gaffes, UNLESS he decides he really can have face to face meetings with enemy dictators and start up a useful dialogue. That kind of political theater might appeal to him, but I wonder how long it would before he got snookered. He will be an international "rock star" so it might even work in his favor, who knows?

Written By: Harun
URL: http://
I doubt that a Democrat President emerging from the 2008 election will dramatically change our commitment to Iraq anymore than a Democrat President emerging from the 1992 election changed our commitment to Iraq, or a Republican President emerging from the 2000 election changed our commitment to Iraq.
Eric, what color is the sky on your planet?

No difference between Bush and Clinton on handling Iraq???

Let’s see, 1992 was happy to bloviate and leave the dictator in charge, and 2000 took out the trash. Nope, no difference there.

And the Democrats have had an effect on progress in Iraq... they’ve made it harder. "Aid and comfort to the enemy" is an apt description.
Written By: SDN
URL: http://
I doubt that a Democrat President emerging from the 2008 election will dramatically change our commitment to Iraq ...
Given a Democratic Congress, I doubt a Democratic president will have much of a choice - espeically with all the promises they’re making.
Written By: McQ
Foreign policy is not Obama’s strong suit ...
That’s nice - its only, if not the primary job of a president, at least in the top two.
Written By: McQ

OIF run-up began in 2002 and actually started in 2003. Remember, the Bush presidency came in on an anti-interventionist platform, which obviously, and correctly, had to change radically after 9/11. What changed between Clinton to Bush pre-9/11 as far as our Iraq policy? Absolutely nothing. If anything, the Bush admin parroted the Clinton admin’s "containment" of Iraq while they focused on China, and possibly Russia, not Iraq and Afghanistan. Only after 9/11, when we had to evaluate our position in that region in light of that event, did our strategy towards Iraq change to OIF. The run-up to OIF was largely based on Clinton admin policy, record and precedent, and intel (or lack thereof, as it turned out) regarding Iraq.

Obama is tricky in that he’s making few substantive claims, at least of the kind he can’t back away from the details. He’s far more potential than known quantity at this point (sports analogy: think choosing Dwight Howard versus Emeka Okafor in the 2004 NBA draft). What we do know about him is that he’s a Wilsonian progressive liberal, which is just another version of neo-con, with a fresher Kennedy-esque face. At this point, our missions in Iraq and Afghanistan are Wilsonian. Can his hand be pushed on Iraq by the angry demagogues in his party? Sure, but as someone who volunteered for a Dem prez candidate in 2003-04, I tend to think of the Dems as pols who play their popular base cynically. Their intent is far more to grab political power - the Presidency, specifically - than ideological. Give them back the Presidency, and I believe they’ll ratchet down a lot of the stuff that is so infuriating now. But even if the demagogues continue to push their man in the White House, Obama’s own Wilsonian tendencies will push back, especially as he meets with UN reps et al and learns that a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq would be highly anti-Wilsonian in consequence, and would derail his own Wilsonian goals from the outset of his Presidency.

I wonder, do isolationist and/or anti-war Democrats realize what it will mean to elect a candidate who believes his own mantra of "Let’s change the world?" Putting that battle-cry into practice makes it more likely our troops ain’t coming home, not less.

As far as Iraq itself, I believe electing a Dem or GOP’er into office doesn’t change that the current COIN op probably would cap at 2010, which should give us sufficient time and space at that point to judge where to go next with OIF. A drawdown and re-orientation of the mission is inevitable. If there’s been no national level progress in Iraq, perhaps even backsliding, despite a successful COIN, the next-step evaluation by a Dem or GOP prez may color somewhat differently, but essentially will end up to be the same. Ditto, if there is national level Iraqi progress growing out of the successful COIN.

There would be growing pains on Obama’s learning curve as he converts potential to skill as a foreign policy leader, but I’m not worried there. However, Obama as a domestic leader? The "... one step removed from a Bolshie kommissar ... " part - yeah, Obama’s domestic political beliefs worry me more.
Written By: Eric Chen
URL: http://

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