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Friday, November 04, 2011

Obama's failure in Iraq

Charles Krauthammer has a devastating commentary today on Obama's failure in Iraq. As Krauthammer points out, Obama was handed a successful Iraq with very little that the President had to do to maintain that success.

Barack Obama was a principled opponent of the Iraq war from its beginning. But when he became president in January 2009, he was handed a war that was won. The surge had succeeded. Al-Qaeda in Iraq had been routed, driven to humiliating defeat by an Anbar Awakening of Sunnis fighting side-by-side with the infidel Americans. Even more remarkably, the Shiite militias had been taken down, with U.S. backing, by the forces of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. They crushed the Sadr militias from Basra to Sadr City.

Al-Qaeda decimated. A Shiite prime minister taking a decisively nationalist line. Iraqi Sunnis ready to integrate into a new national government. U.S. casualties at their lowest ebb in the entire war. Elections approaching. Obama was left with but a single task: Negotiate a new status-of-forces agreement (SOFA) to reinforce these gains and create a strategic partnership with the Arab world’s only democracy.
This was what Obama proclaimed as his strength - negotiating. He was supposed to be the master of diplomacy because other countries would be so honored to be negotiating with The One that he could gain America's objectives. He handed over the task to Joe Biden who was supposed to be this genius on foreign policy with insights gained from his leadership of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. And the result of having these two supposed masters of diplomacy has been an utter failure.
He blew it. Negotiations, such as they were, finally collapsed last month. There is no agreement, no partnership. As of Dec. 31, the U.S. military presence in Iraq will be liquidated.

And it’s not as if that deadline snuck up on Obama. He had three years to prepare for it. Everyone involved, Iraqi and American, knew that the 2008 SOFA calling for full U.S. withdrawal was meant to be renegotiated. And all major parties but one (the Sadr faction) had an interest in some residual stabilizing U.S. force, like the postwar deployments in Japan, Germany and Korea.

Three years, two abject failures. The first was the administration’s inability, at the height of American post-surge power, to broker a centrist nationalist coalition governed by the major blocs — one predominantly Shiite (Maliki’s), one predominantly Sunni (Ayad Allawi’s), one Kurdish — that among them won a large majority (69 percent) of seats in the 2010 election.

Vice President Biden was given the job. He failed utterly. The government ended up effectively being run by a narrow sectarian coalition where the balance of power is held by the relatively small (12 percent) Iranian-client Sadr faction.
And Obama totally failed with the SOFA. First he rejected the recommendations of his commanders on the ground and said that he wanted only 3,000 to 5,000 troops.
A deployment so risibly small would have to expend all its energies simply protecting itself — the fate of our tragic, missionless 1982 Lebanon deployment — with no real capability to train the Iraqis, build their U.S.-equipped air force, mediate ethnic disputes (as we have successfully done, for example, between local Arabs and Kurds), operate surveillance and special-ops bases, and establish the kind of close military-to-military relations that undergird our strongest alliances.

The Obama proposal was an unmistakable signal of unseriousness. It became clear that he simply wanted out, leaving any Iraqi foolish enough to maintain a pro-American orientation exposed to Iranian influence, now unopposed and potentially lethal. Message received. Just this past week, Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurds — for two decades the staunchest of U.S. allies — visited Tehran to bend a knee to both President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
This is what Obama is trumpeting as a success - he has pulled us out of Iraq and left Iran an open door to come in an wield influence there. We'll be out of Iraq and Iran will be in. All because Barack Obama preferred to bring all our troops home without any care for what he left behind. This is not a success but a preparation for future failure.


mark said...

The decision to invade Iraq has been called by many one of the worst foreign policy mistakes in our history. Krauthammer was one of the leading cheerleaders. I'm not sure whether it's guilt or shame that is motivating him, but he only has credibility with those who also were duped into the war (and I suspect are ashamed and guilty).
The column is only "devastating" because it is a pathetic attempt to shift the blame.

tfhr said...


The failure to negotiate the peace is Obama's alone. You can tell us that you think life in Iraq was better during the days of Saddam but you would be a fool to do so. The war was fought; the war was won; now Obama is losing the peace.

Obama lost all credibility for his foreign policy skill claims when he simply ignored the efforts of Iranians to counter the theft of their election. His credentials, chiefly the ability to say "Pah-key-stohn" with a straight face, were non-existent anyways but his decision to hand this incredibly important task to an utter moron like Joe Biden serves only to show his poor skills at delegating.

Obama could have stepped up in 2009 and guided international support for protesting Iranians. He could have had a positive impact but he turned his back on Iranians just like he now turns his backs on millions of Iraqi Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis.

Obama wanted this job but he was never up for it. He is so far beyond his depth that it is almost frightening and America's lack of a coherent foreign policy throughout the Middle East is exhibit one.

mark said...

How nice for Krauthammer (and you) that he can declare wars won or lost. If only it were as easy as stapping on a jumpsuit and declaring Mission Accomplished. Krauthammer helped push the necessity of the war and the ease in which it could be accomplished. Now he's claiming that Obama was handed an easy task.
Again, 4500 soldiers are dead and 10s of thousand are injured because of a mistake. And it wasn't Obama's mistake. No doubt Obama has made mistakes, but he's run circles around Krauthammer and you on foreign policy. I'm sure Krauthammer makes you feel better about your own failures, so at least there's that for you.

tfhr said...


You always sound so bitter and angry. It's sad really.

Please provide that long list of Obama foreign policy accomplishments. (You can even copy them from the Nobel write-up if you need help)

Pat Patterson said...

At the very least the liberation of Iraq accomplished a major strategic goal American foreign policy since 1979. Keeping Iran off balance and hemmed in. While we may not have bases in Iraq any more we still have them in Kuwait, Turkey and the 'Stans. But this leaving Iraq is similar to the bug-out from Vietnam when the Democratic congress cut off the money and the air support promised to the ROV and especially when the ARVN had turned back two land invasions by the NVA. Liberals often will respond by saying that this made the killing stop rather than noticing that from that point on it was mainly the South Vietnamese that were being killed.

mark said...

You always pull out the "bitter and angry" nonsense when you have nothing else. Nope, I'm not a bitter person, but I do get angry when I think about all the death and destruction that occurred due to a war that shouldn't have happened. Not to mention the trillion dollars we have/will have spent.
If you actually supported the troops (as opposed to just hiding behind them to defend the incompetence of Bush) you'd be angry, too.
And while I'm angry about the .5B that Obama's people made to Solyndra, I'm also mad that more than $10B meant to aid our soldiers was stolen from taxpayers, and that conservatives looked the other way because it would have looked bad for Bush and Cheney. You, on the other hand, joked about soldiers being served tainted food and water.
Tell me again why Bush's "I'm not worried" about OBL was okay while Obama was derided for the "leading from behind" comment (you can't even name the person who said it. It certainly wasn't Obama). That is all the evidence needed to know that it's all politics for you.

tfhr said...


I drank the same water and ate the same food as any other soldier, Marine, airman, seaman and American contractor serving in al Anbar. I made no jokes about it unless you thought my remarks that the food service and water was very good was somehow funny.(Now I do remember your shameful and disgusting joke comparing dead Americans with a fish kill during your Peace Corps days but we'll leave that for another time)

You have my permission to contact the Obama administration to demand the prosecution any contractors that did not live up to their contracts in any way. Please get back to me about your success with the current administration on that front. With all of those dollars floating around out there to be recovered through a Justice Department effort, don't you find it odd that it isn't happening. Then again, this Justice Department seems to be in the business of proving weapons to drug cartels, so they may not be the best for the job on cracking down on the corruption you mention. Considering that people like you believe Haliburton to be the very heart of darkness, I wonder why you support an administration that still employs them widely. I guess that changes when your guy is in the White House. Is that what they call "all politics"? (I was trying to make sense of your last line there. No luck.)

As for going to war in Iraq, our current Secretary of State supported that venture based on the same intelligence presented to the White House decision makers of the day. I guess you feel she's really not the person for the job now, right?

She voted to authorize the use of force against Saddam and took this position:

"In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons." -- Hillary Clinton, October 10, 2002

Maybe she did that because her husband held a similar view when he was in office. Remember Bill Clinton's position on regime change while he was in office? He also sent troops into Kosovo and guess who's still there supporting them? Haliburton, of course. I guess that goes out the window when the party changes. Is that "all politics"?

I remember the long winded media discourses on "connecting dots" and I know how you believe in your heart of hearts (not using your brain, of course) that Bush could have preempted 9-11. Oh so many dots.

Yet years of Intelligence Community reporting on the very threat that Hillary identified with Saddam, and you can sit there with a straight face and suggest Bush should have done nothing. Go back and read Hillary's comment and tell me again why that war "should not have happened" based on what she said.

Iraq was inevitable and now it seems so with Iran. It is going to be awful unless something can be done internally with Iranian citizens. Unfortunately we've missed a golden opportunity with Obama's 2009 failure to lead on that matter.

I didn't mention "lead from behind" but I notice that it sticks in your craw. I just wish he'd lead - from somewhere - because he's doing nothing with the Middle East.

Finally, you did not mention a single item to support your claim that Obama "run[s] circles around Krauthammer and you on foreign policy." That comes as no surprise here because the moment you start providing evidence for your claims, we'll all begin to suspect that your name, "mark", has been hijacked by a competent or even intellectually honest troll.

mark said...

I've already cited the evidence multiple times.
Obama was against the Iraq war.
He gave the kill order for OBL.
He helped kill Ghadaffi.

Krauthammer was for the Iraq war and constantly critical of Obama's handling of Libya. As were you.

At least CK is only 0-2. As far as I know, he didn't claim OBL was dead. You're a stellar 0-3 with an asterisk for your "evidence" that OBL was dead based on a "decrease in communiques". (The asterisk being for insanely gross incompetence).
I realize that admitting that the war in Iraq was a huge mistake would be gutwrenching. Given the loss of life, injuries and devastation, it is much easier to pretend it was the right call, even when the reason for going to war has been disproved. You can bring up the dems who supported it, my idiotic joke, or whatever your want to make you feel better about your decision. On the assumption that you actually served with and knew soldiers, it must be hard to deal with. That's just going to have to be your burden in life.
Stop blaming others for your poor choices.

Pat Patterson said...

Well that's changing the narrative somewhat as the standing order had already been given to pursue and kill Bin Laden but the go ahead of the final mission was given by Obama so I would say both presidents get the credit. As to Libya aside from some intial support Obama pulled back and had virtually nothing to do on how NATO handled the rest. In fact it appears that there some covert operations of the GSGK of Germany that led the rebels to the convoy and then to Gadaffi's hiding place. Krauthammer, like many of us, were unhappy with the manner that Obama simply ignored the War Powers Act and forged ahead as a pale imitation of GWB. Except GWB did go to Congress both for the invasion of Afghanistan and the later Iraq.

Plus on a yearly basis more servicemen were killed in peace time then in Iraq and Afghanistan. And all you have to do is read a variety of European papers to discover that they think less of Obama than the majority of Americans planning on voting do.

mark said...

That's pretty good, Pat. There was a standing order to kill OBL, so Bush gets 1/2 the credit?
Bush said he was no longer concerned about the man responsible for killing 3000 in our country. Fortunately, Obama thought differently, ignored the few idiots who claimed OBL was already dead, and gave the kill order.
Bush failed. Obama succeeded. That's all there is to it.

Pat Patterson said...

The order was given and regardless of an out of context quote the military always understood that Ben Ladin bringing him to the US on a pole was Ok.

The raid itself would have been in violation of US law if not for the bill Congress passed, Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, at the behest of GWB a green light to kill those terrorists that were targeted. Besides a different version has Leon Panetta giving the order not Obama.

Can we now talk about leaving the Poles and the Czechs high and dry over the missile shield or is that too down the memory hole.

mark said...

"out of context quote"

How pathetic, Pat. Bush saying "no longer worried" about the man responsible for 3000 deaths was "out of context."

Are you competing with tfhr for most illogical argument? That is up there with calling the infamous pdb "a historical document" and tfhr's OBL must be dead 'cause we don't hear much from him anymore.

mark said...

BTW, Pat.
Why do you feel you need my permission to talk about something else? Thanks, but it's not necessary.

Pat Patterson said...

I was referring, ironically, to one of those foreign policy triumphs of the Obama WH. The fact that President-Elect Obama bacvk pedaled from the Bush the dead-or-alive policy of the US he essentially told al Qaeda that as long as Bin Laden kept his head down he would not be targeted.

"My preference obviously would be to capture or kill him," he said. "But if we have so tightened the noose that he's in a cave somewhere and can't even communicate with his operatives then we will meet our goal of protecting America." Barack Obama to a Daily Mail reporter Jan 15th 2009.

"I truly am not that concerned about him. I am deeply concerned about Iraq.” “I really just don’t spend that much time on him, to be honest with you,” That is what Bush said so obviously you point to an out of context part of that remark to prove Bush had rescinded the dead-or-alive policy.

mark said...

Here's the deal, Pat: He said it multiple times. Quoted below is an interview in which he restated his lack of concern. It wasn't a throw-away "out of context" line. It was a cowardly, pathetic attempt to divert attention from his failure to get OBL, dead or alive.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, as I say, we haven't heard much from him. And I wouldn't necessarily say he's at the center of any command structure. And, again, I don't know where he is. I -- I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him. I know he is on the run. I was concerned about him, when he had taken over a country. I was concerned about the fact that he was basically running Afghanistan and calling the shots for the Taliban.

Pat Patterson said...

So then what is the difference between what Bush said and what Obama said? And why do you never cite the source of the quote? And would you have used the same amount of resources pre-invasion as after to hunt down Bin Laden?

Pat Patterson said...

Also here is the entire press conference. And it should be noted that mark has not only used one particular quote out of context but also ignored that this interview/question was in the run up to the Iraq Invasion. I'm sure if Pres Bush had said that all he thought about was capturing Bin Laden and sending 100,000 troops into Iraq to capture then mark would be complaining that GWB was unconcerned about the invasion of Iraq and that he didn't give enough thought or resources to that effort.

Pat Patterson said...

Here's the link from Tiny URL.

mark said...

You really see no difference in those quotes?
Bush said he's not concerned about OBL and Obama said he was. After years of failure (including Tora Bora), most thought the trail would be cold. Some "experts" thought he was dead (despite the videos suggesting otherwise).
Obama doesn't do the swagger and bravado of "dead or alive", "bring it on" or "mission accomplished". He just quietly got it done. I think the term you cowboys would use for Bush is "All hat, no cattle."

mark said...

People here took a quote from an unnamed Obama aide to tar him with the "leading from behind" mantra. And Obama has embarrassed those people by helping depose of Ghadaffi without the loss of one American soldier. Bush himself said the words "I am truly not concerned" about OBL. And he said it several times. tfhr and you can spin all you want. I took nothing out of context.

Pat Patterson said...

Obama used the passive voice in seeing that as long as Bin Laden kept his head down then everything was hunky dory. As to Libya I can only remind mark that the invasion of Iraq saw Democrats and Obama either moaning or implying it was an illegal war but strangely quiet on a clear violation of the War Powers Act by the hoped to be one-term president. As to context I doubt very much if you read either Bush's complete remarks from the months prior to the invasion of Iraq or the full interview of Obama in the Daily Mail.

Pat Patterson said...

“An order to go in and murder someone in their house is not a lawful order,” explained Pfarrer, who maintains that bin Laden would have been captured had he surrendered. “Unlike the Germans in World War II, if you’re a petty officer, a chief petty officer, a naval officer, and you’re giving an order to murder somebody, that’s an unlawful order.” Those darn soldiers spoiling all the chest pounding of the politicians and actually having the temerity to know the difference between what is wished for and what is legal.

Read more:

tfhr said...

Wow! It looks like I missed out on a great game of ping-pong though I can't help but notice that mark was using his old one string banjo as a paddle.

mark, I asked you to provide a list of Obama's foreign policy successes and after all these days and all this back and forth you still fail! Now you've suggested that the deaths of bin Laden and Gaddafi were successes and I would agree that they are unquestionably good things, but do you consider such actions as "foreign policy"? Really?

If that is "foreign policy", please describe how this is a coherent process that has been applied through diplomacy and international agreement with the likes of Russia, China, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, Israel, etc?
How would you describe the Obama doctrine then?

As much as it pleases me to know that Libya's dictator and reviled world terrorist Gaddafi is dead, please tell us all how the United States plans to reconcile what remains of Libya. How will we be managing what comes into place in Tripoli and elsewhere in a country awash with weaponry now in the hands of various groups of militias, private armies, and by the looks of it, off-shoots of al Qaeda?

Colin Powell accurately described the reality that the United States faces when it goes to war when he applied the familiar phrase, "You broke it, you bought it", to our military ventures. It was true then and it is true now. No matter how Obama wants to portray Libya, the aftermath is his responsibility and we are seeing nothing positive or even proactive directed at the problem at this time.

When the Soviet Union pulled out of Afghanistan the West basically left the country to spiral into a civil war that produced a Taliban victory. Now Obama is pulling out of Iraq before democratic and stable governance is consolidated there. He advertises that this will be the model for Afghanistan and he has basically helped set the table for the same in Libya.

And you think this will not cost one American life?

How short-sighted you are, mark. Now tune up that banjo and pluck away in the chord of BDS!