Katie Couric (CBS): Before the surge, as you know, Senator, there were 80 to 100 U.S. casualties a month, the country was rife with sectarian violence, and you raised a lot of eyebrows on this trip saying even knowing what you know now, you still would not have supported the surge. People may be scratching their heads and saying, "Why?"
Barack Obama: Well … because … what I was referring to, and I've consistently referred to, is the need for a strategy that actually concludes our involvement in Iraq and moves Iraqis to take responsibility for the country.
Couric: But didn't the surge …
Obama: And …
Couric: …help do that?
Obama: Let me finish, Katie. What happens is that if we continue to put $10 billion to $12 billion a month into Iraq, if we are willing to send as many troops as we can muster continually into Iraq? There's no doubt that that's gonna have an impact. But it doesn't meet our long-term strategic goal, which is to make the American people safer over the long term. If that means that we're detracting from our efforts in Afghanistan, where conditions are deteriorating, if it means that we are distracted from going after Osama bin Laden who is still sending out audio tapes and is operating training camps where we know terrorists' actions are being plotted.
If we have shifted away from the central front of terrorism as a consequence of enormous and continuing investments in Iraq, then that's a poor strategic choice. And ultimately, what we've got to do is - we have to recognize that Iraq is just one of our … security problems. It's not the only one.
We've got big problems in Afghanistan. We've got a significant threat in Iran. We've got to deal with Pakistan and the fact that there are safe havens there. Those are all the factors and all the issues that I've gotta take into account when I'm president of the United States.
Couric: All that may be true. But do you not give the surge any credit for reducing violence in Iraq?
Obama: No, no … of course I have. There is no doubt that the extraordinary work of our U.S. forces has contributed to a lessening of the violence, just as making sure that the Sadr militia stood down or the fact that the Sunni tribes decided to flip and work with us instead of with al-Qaeda - something that we hadn't anticipated happening.
All those things have contributed to a reduction in violence. So this, in no way, detracts from the great efforts of our young men and women in uniform. In fact, that's one of the most striking things about visiting Iraq is to see how dedicated they are, what a great job they do - all those things … are critically important. What I'm saying is it does not solve the broader strategic question that we have been dealing with over the last five, six, seven years. And that is how do we take the limited resources we have, both militarily and financially, and apply them in such a way that we are making America as safe as possible? And I believe that my approach is the right one.
Couric: But talking microcosmically, did the surge, the addition of 30,000 additional troops ... help the situation in Iraq?
Obama: Katie, as … you've asked me three different times, and I have said repeatedly that there is no doubt that our troops helped to reduce violence. There's no doubt.
Couric: But yet you're saying … given what you know now, you still wouldn't support it … so I'm just trying to understand this.
Obama: Because … it's pretty straightforward. By us putting $10 billion to $12 billion a month, $200 billion, that's money that could have gone into Afghanistan. Those additional troops could have gone into Afghanistan. That money also could have been used to shore up a declining economic situation in the United States. That money could have been applied to having a serious energy security plan so that we were reducing our demand on oil, which is helping to fund the insurgents in many countries. So those are all factors that would be taken into consideration in my decision— to deal with a specific tactic or strategy inside of Iraq.
Couric: And I really don't mean to belabor this, Senator, because I'm really, I'm trying … to figure out your position. Do you think the level of security in Iraq …
Couric … would exist today without the surge?
Obama: Katie, I have no idea what would have happened had we applied my approach, which was to put more pressure on the Iraqis to arrive at a political reconciliation. So this is all hypotheticals. What I can say is that there's no doubt that our U.S. troops have contributed to a reduction of violence in Iraq. I said that, not just today, not just yesterday, but I've said that previously. What that doesn't change is that we've got to have a different strategic approach if we're going to make America as safe as possible.
Just can't bring himself to admit it about the surge, can he?
By the way - a flashback to January of this year when supposedly the "hypothetical" was reality and Obama gave himself and Democrats credit for the surge's success during one of the debates:
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.
What a load of camel dung.
Lord Keynes once famously said, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"
What Obama does is practice avoidance and does so through the age old political device of doggedly sticking to his talking points in the face of the obvious reality of the situation.
Let me get this right. The surge was meant to add enough soldiers in theater to help stabilize the country (As requested by the ’generals’). Sen. Obama’s immediate response is; the surge will not work. Iraq begins showing progress. Sen. Obama says; the surge did not work. Sen. Obama holds fast to a planned 16 month draw down of troops in Iraq longer than any other Dem in the public eye.
His reason for drawing down. So he can surge troop levels in Afghanistan to help stabilize the country!
If we have shifted away from the central front of terrorism as a consequence of enormous and continuing investments in Iraq, then that’s a poor strategic choice. And ultimately, what we’ve got to do is - we have to recognize that Iraq is just one of our … security problems. It’s not the only one.
We’ve got big problems in Afghanistan. We’ve got a significant threat in Iran. We’ve got to deal with Pakistan and the fact that there are safe havens there. Those are all the factors and all the issues that I’ve gotta take into account when I’m president of the United States.
Iraq is one of the most important nations in the Middle East. Afganistan, not so much. Long term, Iraq is a higher stratigic priority than Afganistan. And, Iraq is a key element in dealing with Iran.
Aside from all that, not every unit we have in Iraq would be ideal for hunting down bin laden et al in A-stan.
We ALL know the surge is a failure, it would all have happened without us ever surging, these tribal coalitions would have rooted out Al-Queda, root and stem, just like our allies would handle the problems in Afghanistan.
It’s still a failure, everything that has happended would have happened anyway...what is WRONG with you wingnutz?
Couric was almost a journalist in that interview. What happened?
First Andrea Mitchell, now Katie Couric.
Maybe they remember how Obama continuously bashed Hillary for voting for the war.
Given Obama’s fold-up on the FISA bill, there’s no question in my mind that he would have voted for the war in 2002 also. He would have had his finger in the air then, too.
I think that Obama has looked like nothing but a fool on this trip, even with the advantage of Maliki’s hedge.
But remember this about the "antiwar" Democrats, inclusive of the nutjob base. Most of them aren’t antiwar. They just want soc*alism. If losing a war can get them into power, why, it’s a lot easier than winning a war to get them there.
Whether we’re talking about government schools, government welfare, government wars, or government anything, we need to be careful what we call success. If I were to set the goal of buying a VW Beetle, and I purchase one, I could call it a success, right?
But what if I spent $60,000 to make that purchase? Is that still a success?
The other point one should note is this business of pressuring the Iraqi’s to do something as his answer to what he would have done in Iraq - who? Are they a homogeneous group that such pressure will work on them all the same way?
Is that like applying pressure here to the legal immigrants to get the illegals to stop sneaking in? Applying pressure to white America to stop the glorification of gangstas in the black community? Applying pressure to the black community to get white rednecks to stop flying the Confederate flag as a symbol not of their heritage but of their racism?
I suppose he could say "get peaceful or we bomb the sh!t out of ALL of you" and that might work, but somehow I don’t that’s Hopey’s style (and I don’t think it would work).
Everyone acknowledges that the shia and sunni are different groups with different beliefs and different goals. I’d love to hear what external pressure Hopey O’Changitude thinks he’d apply that will just make them all get along peacefully. Think that approach will work in Kosovo?, Maybe in Jerusalem?, Dafur?
This says everything you need to know about the messiah. Despite his need to bluff the electorate on his foreign policy "expertise", if he just admitted that he was mistaken the MSM would never mention this issue again. He just cannot admit that he was wrong. His ego won’t allow it.
That kind of hubris and/or cognitive dissonance is one of the fundamental traits of modern liberalism. The Clintons can’t admit they have been wrong about anything either. This is one of the biggest problems that conservatives will face in winning back Congress. Liberals, in and out of public office, will never admit they were wrong on drilling offshore and in ANWR, global warming, etc., etc. Paul Erlich still won’t admit that his predictions in "The Population Bomb" were wrong. Erb still maintains that Jimmuh Carter is a great man. These people are idiots, but more importantly, they are narcissists who are psychologically incapable of acting reasonably. Facts do not matter to them if those facts impede their self interest or detract from their sense of superiority.
What kind of price do you put on 30 million people free of the excesses of a man like Sadaam?
That’s a non-sequitur, brother. Saddam Hussein was hanging at the end of a rope long before the surge was even conceived. The surge had a different goal than that. What’s the maximum price you place on that goal(whatever it is). In dollars? In lives?
I guess he was referring to the entire campaign, where I think people could reasonably disagree about the worth of the investment.
The surge however puts your comment in a different light, given the disastrous cost to both Iraqi’s and us, it seems pretty inexpensive to me. The freedoms lost since that point are pretty minor, the larger cost there was from before the surge as well.
I disagreed with people that the surge couldn’t succeed, but I understand that. I cannot understand saying the cost was excessive after the surge. The cost of leaving in the situation as it stood would likely have cost just as many soldiers lives, and just as much money, with tremendous costs in dealing with the situation afterward. That doesn’t even include the costs to the Iraqi’s and the likelihood of future engagements in the Middle East if we left. While Obama, and you, could have blamed them on Bush without the evidence of the surges success to undermine the argument, those costs would still exist. Knowing all that now makes the argument not only poor, but because it puts absolutely no value on what happens to the Iraqi’s, it is also inhumane.
Once again, it doesn’t mean the argument against the surge was unreasonable prospectively, but retrospectively it is quite disturbing.