Barack Obama eloquently and persuasively makes the case that Barack Obama has no idea what he’s talking about.
My favorite part is about 3:30 in, where Obama calls for full withdrawal in 16 months, and then denies he ever advocated withdrawing troops.
It’s not a sin to be wrong on the surge. I was.
It is wrong to deny you were. It makes people think you’re a liar.
And it’s dangerous to elect someone President who’s still learning about the COIN cycle. There’s advantages to electing a naif as President. Winning wars and keeping soldiers alive aren’t included in that list.
A funny thing happened over on the Barack Obama campaign website in the last few days.
The parts that stressed his opposition to the 2007 troop surge and his statement that more troops would make no difference in a civil war have somehow disappeared. John McCain and Obama have been going at it heavily in recent days over the benefits of the surge.
The Arizona senator, who advocated the surge for years before the Bush administration employed it, says the resulting reduction in violence is proof it worked with progress on 15 of 18 political benchmarks and Obama’s plan to withdraw troops by now would have resulted in surrender.
It wasn’t just Obama’s website that contradicts itself. Obama’s surrogates contradict Obama, as well:
In The Post American World Fareed Zakaria argues that America’s (relatively) incurious, unintelligent, and small-minded political class hurts American competitiveness. Certainy this is true to a point. But having a country where the best and brightest shun politics has it advantages. When changes do come, they have an inevitable and irreversible quality to them. Similarly, a country where the best and brightest stay out of politics is where truly ambitious government programs are — thankfully — unlikely.
I’ll take an ambitious business-climate over an ambitious government-climate any day.
That I was wrong, and John McCain was right, on an issue that I cared and thought a lot about is a driving force behind my endorsement of the Senator. While I was calling for withdrawal and criticizing the surge for slowing the ethnic cleansing that would be needed if Iraq was to cleanly fracture into three sovereign states, Senator McCain, Secretary Gates, and General Petreaus used better knowledge and better opinions than mine to craft our current Iraq strategy.
As success after success mount for the Surge, men like Muqtada al Sadr who once looked like the future are now justly seen as has-beens: marginal figures who will try their best, but seem to have little real influence or power. Indeed, the Surge has been so successful that it is replicating its success, as the Iraqi Government’s Mini-Me Surge in Basra, which met with similar opposition, is seeing similar success.
It will be interesting to see who wins in November. Both candidates have pluses (presuming that the Democratic Party gives the nomination to Barack Obama, and not popular-vote-winner Hillary Clinton. Still, as I vote on such provincial matters as having the correct beliefs, making the right sacrifices, and supporting wise policies when it mattered, I will be voting for John McCain.
So it appears the military Surge is working. We also need a diplomatic “Surge.” In particular, the U.S. government should intensively pursue the following goals with respect to Iraq.
an emphasis on victory as a fait accompli. With respect to our primary enemies — supporters of al Qaeda and supporters of al Baath — the only question left is the nature and extent of their obliteration. With respect to our primary clients — al Dawa, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the Kurdish Democratic Party, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan — the only question left is the nature and extent of their triumph.
an emphasis on The 2K Solution. The war leaves us with two stable and friendly allies who enthusiastically wish us to remain and do not require counter-insurgency operations: Kuwait and Kurdistan. The American military presence should be accompanied by an increased American economic presence, focusing on the role of Kurdistan and Kuwait as developmental hubs for the region.
an emphasis on Iran. Like cancer, the Iraqi Baath Party and the Islamist Qaeda Movement are blight on everyone’s house. Now that the first disease has been cured and the second seemingly quarantined, enemies (Iran) as well as clients (Saudi Arabia) and friends (Israel) all benefit. A favorable regional balance of power can be sustained through military arms and materiel sells at favorable rates. American troops in Iraq are not needed. Similarly, the ruling parties of Iraq are naturally grateful to Iran for years of underground support. Iran’s help should be embraced.
an emphasis on feedback. The reality of the deed — the overthrow of one of the most prominent Sunni Arab states and its replacement by a Shia Arab regime — is matched by the propaganda of the deed — that partisans of Ali now control the ancient seat of the Caliphate that murdered their Imams. In every way, the greatness of the deed and the thunderousness of the propaganda should be emphasized. To the extent possible, both should be used to destabilize the broader Sunni Arab world.
I was skeptical of the Surge, but if our military progress is matched by an equal effort on the diplomatic effort, it will have been worth it.