At a press availability over the weekend about his new bombing campaign, the president kvetched about all those people who keep insisting that he ended the Iraq War: “What I just find interesting is the degree to which this issue keeps on coming up, as if this was my decision.” It is true that the Bush administration had agreed to end our troop presence, and if we were going to stay, Obama had to negotiate a new status-of-forces agreement with the Iraqis. Why it didn’t happen is a complicated question, and Iraqi resistance is part of the answer.
But Obama was perfectly content with the outcome. “The leaders of all the major Iraqi parties had privately told American commanders that they wanted several thousand military personnel to remain, to train Iraqi forces and to help track down insurgents,” according to a definitive account in The New Yorker by Dexter Filkins. Obama was “ambivalent about retaining even a small force in Iraq,” Filkins writes. American officials negotiating with the Iraqis were left without guidance from the White House for months, and when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki offered to sign an executive agreement — bypassing the problematic Iraqi parliament — the administration said “no.”
Filkins quotes an Iraqi politician: “The American attitude was: Let’s get out of here as quickly as possible.” And why not? This was the fulfillment of Obama’s defining political promise. When we were out of Iraq entirely, he didn’t say how regrettable it was; he declared “mission accomplished.” It’s only after the ensuing disaster that we learn he was an innocent bystander. It may be that Iraq — after being largely pacified by 2009 — would have fallen apart even if we had maintained a residual force. But troops on the ground gave us the influence to restrain Maliki from his worst instincts.
And I suppose I should repeat my Iraq War history lesson: Things were going so well as late as 2010 that the Obama Administration was bragging about Iraq as one of its big foreign policy successes.
In the interest of historical accuracy, I think I’ll repeat this post again:
[Y]ou certainly can make a persuasive argument it was a mistake. But there is a time that line going along that Bush and the other people lied about this. I spent 18 months looking at how Bush decided to invade Iraq. And lots of mistakes, but it was Bush telling George Tenet, the CIA director, don’t let anyone stretch the case on WMD. And he was the one who was skeptical. And if you try to summarize why we went into Iraq, it was momentum. The war plan kept getting better and easier, and finally at the end, people were saying, hey, look, it will only take a week or two. And early on it looked like it was going to take a year or 18 months. And so Bush pulled the trigger. A mistake certainly can be argued, and there is an abundance of evidence. But there was no lying in this that I could find.
Woodward was also asked if it was a mistake to withdraw in 2011. Wallace points out that Obama has said that he tried to negotiate a status of forces agreement but did not succeed, but “A lot of people think he really didn’t want to keep any troops there.” Woodward agrees that Obama didn’t want to keep troops there and elaborates:
Look, Obama does not like war. But as you look back on this, the argument from the military was, let’s keep 10,000, 15,000 troops there as an insurance policy. And we all know insurance policies make sense. We have 30,000 troops or more in South Korea still 65 years or so after the war. When you are a superpower, you have to buy these insurance policies. And he didn’t in this case. I don’t think you can say everything is because of that decision, but clearly a factor.
We had some woeful laughs about the insurance policies metaphor. Everyone knows they make sense, but it’s still hard to get people to buy them. They want to think things might just work out, so why pay for the insurance? It’s the old “young invincibles” problem that underlies Obamcare.
Obama blew it in Iraq, which is in chaos, and in Syria, which is in chaos, and in Libya, which is in chaos. A little history:
As late as 2010, things were going so well in Iraq that Obama and Biden were bragging. Now, after Obama’s politically-motivated pullout and disengagement, the whole thing’s fallen apart. This is near-criminal neglect and incompetence, and an awful lot of people will pay a steep price for the Obama Administration’s fecklessness.
Related: What Kind Of Iraq Did Obama Inherit?
Plus, I’m just going to keep running this video of what the Democrats, including Harry Reid and Hillary Clinton, were saying on Iraq before the invasion:
Because I expect a lot of revisionist history over the next few months.
Plus: 2008 Flashback: Obama Says Preventing Genocide Not A Reason To Stay In Iraq. He was warned. He didn’t care.
And who can forget this?
FACT: President Obama kept his promise to end the war in Iraq. Romney called the decision to bring our troops home “tragic.”
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) October 22, 2012
Yes, I keep repeating this stuff. Because it bears repeating. In Iraq, Obama took a war that we had won at a considerable expense in lives and treasure, and threw it away for the callowest of political reasons. In Syria and Libya, he involved us in wars of choice without Congressional authorization, and proceeded to hand victories to the Islamists. Obama’s policy here has been a debacle of the first order, and the press wants to talk about Bush as a way of protecting him. Whenever you see anyone in the media bringing up 2003, you will know that they are serving as palace guard, not as press.
Related: Obama’s Betrayal Of The Iraqis.
Plus: Maybe that Iraq withdrawal was a bad thing in hindsight. Obama’s actions, if not his words, suggest that even he may think so.