It is open season on President Obama. He is a weak president. He is too cautious, they say. Even Hillary Clinton has jumped on the bandwagon. Hillary Clinton seems to be using the international unrest to criticize the President’s policies. She told the Atlantic:
“The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad—there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle—the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled,” Clinton said. …Of course she is wrong. It is a continuum of doing stupid stuff and being presumptuous internationally that has cost us thousands of lives, cost hundreds of thousands of lives overseas, and depleted our treasury. Those who criticize President Obama for being overcautious should check history for America’s continuous blunders internationally that have kept us at war for decades with little marginal increase in security (Iraq twice, Iran, Panama, Grenada, Vietnam, Dominican Republic, etc.)
This is what Clinton said about Obama’s slogan: “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”
America has a tendency to go against the will of the people to support "dictators" of our liking. Dissension and unrest is usually the outcome. “Don’t do stupid stuff” is a very good framework in which to put any foreign policy move we make. Hillary Clinton would do well to not run the risk of reminding Americans how wrong her vote to support the war in Iraq was. Many may see it not as a mistake she made based on Bush’s lies, but as a kinship in values with the neocons.
This weekend a lazy, seemingly gullible reporter asked President Obama if he regretted not leaving troops in Iraq. That is a question based on Republican talking points and not journalistic inquiry. The reporter should have known that the U.S.–Iraq Status of Forces Agreement was signed by President Bush which specifically said all combat troops would leave Iraq in December of 2011. President Obama attempted to negotiate keeping more soldiers in Iraq but could not come to an agreement with the Iraqi government who wanted the soldiers out.
Please read below the fold for more on this story.
President Obama’s response to the reporter was classic. He slams the reporter’s tenet without raising his voice:
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.President Obama then explains the reality that attempting a military solution for a socio-political problem in Iraq or any country is in fact "doing stupid stuff."
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.
Having said all that, if in fact the Iraqi government behaved the way it did over the last five, six years, where it failed to pass legislation that would reincorporate Sunnis and give them a sense of ownership; if it had targeted certain Sunni leaders and jailed them; if it had alienated some of the Sunni tribes that we had brought back in during the so-called Awakening that helped us turn the tide in 2006—if they had done all those things and we had had troops there, the country wouldn’t be holding together either. The only difference would be we’d have a bunch of troops on the ground that would be vulnerable. And however many troops we had, we would have to now be reinforcing, I’d have to be protecting them, and we’d have a much bigger job. And probably, we would end up having to go up again in terms of the number of grounds troops to make sure that those forces were not vulnerable.The president concludes by showing why many wanted him to be president. He is not only thoughtful but understands that lessons can be and must be learned from past mistakes. Most importantly it is evident he ignores the noise as best he can from the pawns of the military industrial complex in attempting to do the right thing.
So that entire analysis is bogus and is wrong. But it gets frequently peddled around here by folks who oftentimes are trying to defend previous policies that they themselves made.
Going forward with respect to Afghanistan, we are leaving the follow-on force there. I think the lesson for Afghanistan is not the fact that we’ve got a follow-on force that will be capable of training and supporting Afghan security efforts. I think the real lesson in Afghanistan is that if factions in a country after a long period of civil war do not find a way to come up with a political accommodation; if they take maximalist positions and their attitude is, I want 100 percent of what I want and the other side gets nothing, then the center doesn’t hold.The above news conference has not received the coverage it deserves. Instead, long debunked statements and actions by necons (Senator John McCain and Lindsey Graham and neocon lites like Hillary Clinton) are given coverage without the appropriate historical and journalistic analysis. America must not fall into war based on the same faulty analysis and lies of the past.
And the good news is, is that in part thanks to the excellent work of John Kerry and others, we now are seeing the two candidates in the recent presidential election start coming together and agreeing not only to move forward on the audit to be able to finally certify a winner in the election, but also the kinds of political accommodations that are going to be required to keep democracy moving.
So that’s a real lesson I think for Afghanistan coming out of Iraq is, if you want this thing to work, then whether it’s different ethnicities, different religions, different regions, they’ve got to accommodate each other, otherwise you start tipping back into old patterns of violence. And it doesn’t matter how many U.S. troops are there—if that happens, you end up having a mess.