American Elephants

“Leaving Iraq? As If This Was My Decision” Part II by The Elephant's Child

It is true that the Bush administration had agreed to end our troop presence. Iraq, naturally wanted to govern their own  country on their own. They were aware that their military needed more training in order to keep the peace. If we were going to stay, Obama had to negotiate a new “status of force agreement” with the Iraqis.

Why that didn’t happen is a complicated question, and Iraqis wanting to be in control of their own country was part of the answer, but only part. Obama was ambivalent about retaining any force in the country. The American officials who were negotiating with the Iraqis were left without guidance from the White House for months.

Dexter Filkins who wrote a definitive piece for The New Yorker quoted an Iraqi politician: “The American attitude was: Let’s get out of here as quickly as possible.”

This was Obama’s most important political promise. I’m not at all sure that it is actually what Americans wanted. The media’s favorite cliché is “war weary.” In the face of a long political campaign centered on mostly meaningless phrases, ending the War in Iraq was one of the few real promises. Obama proudly declared “Mission Accomplished.”

It may not have made any difference, but troops on the ground would have given us a large measure of influence. The Middle East is not much given to peaceful elective government. See Rick Lowry’s piece in the New York Post.

Without the United States as an honest broker, it has been downhill ever since. Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, the former deputy commander in Iraq, told Filkins, “Everything that has happened there was not just predictable — we predicted it.”

Iraq is perhaps the purest expression of the Obama doctrine.


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How to screw-up a Status-of-Forces agreement:

– recall most of the previous negotiators (Bush appointed)
– replace them with negotiators that want what you want (all troops to come home because, hey, you promised!)
– give the negotiators no real power to compromise or make decisions (or, what is known in diplomatic circles as NEGOTIATING.)
– find a relatively minor point to based your disagreement around (diplomatic immunity for troops remaining in country should NOT have been the deal-breaker Obama is making it out to be; there are already accepted rules for those issues in the UN Charter and the Geneva Convention, and Maliki wasn’t as deadset against the idea as the Dems are making him out to be.)
– after months of no progress on the issue, primarily because the US diplomats have received little to no guidance and the administration is rejecting all Iraqi-originated proposals out of hand, throw up your hands and walk away.
– withdraw all troops and declare victory! (despite have been opposed to every single aspect of the war you just claimed to have won.) have your VP go out and tell everyone how this is going to be remembered as a great success for your administration.
– when things fall apart, as predicted by people you don’t ever listen to in the first place, blame the failure of your policy not on your policy but on the other people you never really negotiated with when you needed to. Say that it’s up to them to fix the problem.

Standard issue Obama: the wisdom of The Scarecrow, and the courage of the Cowardly Lion


Comment by Lon Mead

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