Obama's op-ed and his speech seem to reflect the campaign's hope that enough people are not familiar with his past pronouncements on Iraq to recognize the dishonesty and cynicism in these latest public statements. Add to them those who know and don't care, plus those who don't have any idea what shapes Obama's views, but are just aglow in hopiness and changitude, and it could be a winning formula.
To me the most disingenuous and arrogant campaign promise is that he "will end this war." The formulation is insulting. As if his order to remove U.S. troops will end the war that we have been fighting for five years...the one between the forces of freedom and self-government in Iraq, and those of autocratic or theocratic tyranny. That kite-flying peace will reign in our absence, and he can make it happen...by leaving. The man will end war by commanding that it be so. A different kind of politician indeed.
John Hinderaker critiques the op-ed here. Read it all, of course. Excerpt...
In short, Obama bet the farm on his prediction that General Petraeus and the American military would fail. He was as spectacularly wrong as John McCain was spectacularly right. But his op-ed somehow twists this history into vindication on the theory that Afghanistan has deteriorated, the Iraq war has been expensive, and Iraq's political leaders "have not reached the political accommodation that was the stated purpose of the surge."
Let's start with the last point. Obama completely fails to acknowledge the remarkable political progress that has resulted from the surge, as manifested by the fact that the country's largest Sunni bloc has rejoined the government, and the U.S. Embassy reports that 15 of the 18 benchmarks of political progress that were set by Congress are now being met. Those benchmarks were set precisely for the purpose of measuring the "political accommodation that was the stated purpose of the surge," yet Obama fails even to mention them.
Still more dishonest is Obama's failure to acknowledge what would have happened if his policy prescription, precipitate withdrawal regardless of military conditions, had been followed: chaos, sectarian violence, possibly genocide, a resurgent al Qaeda in control of part of Iraq, with Iran possibly in control of other areas of the country. This would have been a foreign policy disaster, yet Obama, with vague references to cost and Afghanistan, claims vindication!
As to al Qaeda--the elephant in the room--Obama simply dissimulates:
Iraq is not the central front in the war on terrorism, and it never has been.
That's not what Osama bin Laden (Iraq is where the "Third World War is ragingâ€) or Ayman al-Zawahiri (Iraq is "the place for the greatest battle of Islam in this eraâ€) say. Al Qaeda summoned jihadists from around the Muslim world to go to Iraq to fight American troops, declaring that this effort is the central front in their war against civilization. Those jihadists have been devastated by American armed forces, who have thereby scored what may, with hindsight, turn out to have been the decisive victory in the war against Muslim extremism. Obama denies all of this in a single sentence, without citing any evidence whatsoever
It will help him if the media allow him to get away with just ignoring inconvenient facts. Rich Lowry says ignoring facts is a necessary element of the strategy...
Obama treats as a vindication a recent statement by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki calling for a timeline for withdrawal of U.S. forces. But Maliki, playing to his domestic politic audience, can't be taken at face value. Neither Maliki nor anyone around him talks of an unconditional 16-month timeline for withdrawal as being remotely plausible. His defense minister says Iraqis will be ready to handle internal security on their own in 2012 and external security by 2020.
The Iraqis most enthusiastic about Obama's plan surely are al-Qaeda members, Sadrists, Iranian agents and sectarian killers of every stripe. The prospect of an American president suddenly letting up on them has to be the best cause for hope they've had in months. Obama's withdrawal would immediately embolden every malign actor in Iraq, and increase their sway in Iraqi politics.
In his oped, Obama sticks to the badly dated contention that Iraqis "have not reached the political accommodation that was the stated purpose of the surge." In fact, roughly 15 of 18 political benchmarks have been met by the Iraqis -- progress Obama threatens to reverse.
Even 15 months ago, when Krauthammer wrote this column it was obvious that the Democrats' argument that we were fighting "the wrong war" was unserious:
Thought experiment: Bring in a completely neutral observer -- a Martian -- and point out to him that the United States is involved in two hot wars against radical Islamic insurgents. One is in Afghanistan, a geographically marginal backwater with no resources and no industrial or technological infrastructure. The other is in Iraq, one of the three principal Arab states, with untold oil wealth, an educated population, an advanced military and technological infrastructure that, though suffering decay in the later years of Saddam Hussein's rule, could easily be revived if it falls into the right (i.e., wrong) hands. Add to that the fact that its strategic location would give its rulers inordinate influence over the entire Persian Gulf region, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Gulf states. Then ask your Martian: Which is the more important battle? He would not even understand why you are asking the question.
Al-Qaeda has provided the answer many times. Osama bin Laden, the one whose presence in Afghanistan (or some cave on the border) presumably makes it the central front in the war on terror, has been explicit that "the most . . . serious issue today for the whole world is this Third World War that is raging in Iraq." Al-Qaeda's No. 2, Ayman Zawahiri, has declared that Iraq "is now the place for the greatest battle of Islam in this era."
And it's not just what al-Qaeda says, it's what al-Qaeda does. Where are they funneling the worldwide recruits for jihad? Where do all the deranged suicidists who want to die for Allah gravitate? It's no longer Afghanistan but Iraq. That's because they recognize the greater prize.
(via Dennis Prager
UPDATE 7/18: Peter Wehner on Obama and the surge.