American Elephants

Obama: Leaving Iraq? “As If This Was My Decision!” by The Elephant's Child

Just before he left on vacation on Saturday, President Obama spoke briefly about the  situation in Iraq. One reporter asked the president if he had any “second thoughts about pulling all ground troops out of Iraq? And does it give you pause as the U.S. — is doing the same thing in Afghanistan?”

The President:

What I just find interesting is the degree to which this issue keeps on coming up, as if this was my decision.  Under the previous administration, we had turned over the country to a sovereign, democratically elected Iraqi government.  In order for us to maintain troops in Iraq, we needed the invitation of the Iraqi government and we needed assurances that our personnel would be immune from prosecution if, for example, they were protecting themselves and ended up getting in a firefight with Iraqis, that they wouldn’t be hauled before an Iraqi judicial system.

And the Iraqi government, based on its political considerations, in part because Iraqis were tired of a U.S. occupation, declined to provide us those assurances.  And on that basis, we left. We had offered to leave additional troops.  So when you hear people say, do you regret, Mr. President, not leaving more troops, that presupposes that I would have overridden this sovereign government that we had turned the keys back over to and said, you know what, you’re democratic, you’re sovereign, except if I decide that it’s good for you to keep 10,000 or 15,000 or 25,000 Marines in your country, you don’t have a choice — which would have kind of run contrary to the entire argument we were making about turning over the country back to Iraqis, an argument not just made by me, but made by the previous administration.

So let’s just be clear:  The reason that we did not have a follow-on force in Iraq was because the Iraqis were — a majority of Iraqis did not want U.S. troops there, and politically they could not pass the kind of laws that would be required to protect our troops in Iraq.


Direct from the White House website. From the White House press office:

“After taking office, I announced a new strategy that would end our combat mission in Iraq and remove all of our troops by the end of 2011,” he said. “So today, I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year.”

Yesterday, the president said in the state dining room:

I ran for this office in part to end our war in Iraq and welcome our troops home, and that’s what we’ve done. As Commander-in-Chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq.

And so even as we support Iraqis as they take the fight to these terrorists, American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq, because there’s no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq.

The only lasting solution is reconciliation among Iraqi communities and stronger Iraqi security forces.

As if that’s going to happen. There can be no reconciliation with ISIS, and there cannot be peace or reconciliation until ISIS is defeated. How that is to be accomplished is unknown. Stronger Iraqi security forces are needed, but what is Obama going to do to bring that about?  Apparently not much.

Dexter Filkins explained in The New Yorker how Obama failed to secure the status of forces agreement. When Obama announced the withdrawal, he portrayed it as the culmination of his own strategy.

Must be hard — keeping track of which way the political winds are blowing. Does he really not think we can look up what he said the last time? Or does he just believe it doesn’t matter?

Max Boot explores the problem a little more deeply in the Weekly Standard, September 19, 2011.

If it’s good, the president will take credit, if it’s bad, it’s not his fault.  Simple.

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