Thursday, July 03, 2008

Questioning Senator Obama's Judgment...

“No military surge, no matter how brilliantly performed, can succeed without political reconciliation and a surge of diplomacy in Iraq and the region. Iraq’s leaders are not reconciling. They are not achieving political benchmarks.”
- Senator Barack Obama, August 19, 2007, in an address at the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars

His supporters want to prop his non-vote authorizing the use of force against Saddam (since he was not a U.S. Senator at the time) and his public statements against the war (from a position of non-leadership judgment, since he was not privy to the 2002 NIE) as a sign of foresight and wisdom, given how the Iraq Battle has been characterized by most of media. Here's a transcript of Senator Obama's questioning of General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker back in September (the bold emphasis is from the anti-war link- I left it in there, 'cause I thought it was cute):

The question is one of strategy, not tactics. And the difficulty we have, I think, is that, each time we’ve talked to you, questions have been posed to you about the broader strategy of our war in Iraq, you’ve punted a little bit because you’ve said, look, that’s a little outside my bailiwick.

But as Senator Feingold pointed out, we don’t have limitless resources. And we’ve got to make these decisions, at least, in the Senate, based on priorities and the costs, as well as benefits, to pursuing a particular strategy.

I have to say, and this hasn’t been commented on, I think that we should not have had this discussion on 9/11 or 9/10 or 9/12. Because I think it perpetuates this notion that, somehow, the original decision to go into Iraq was directly related to the attacks on 9/11.

OBAMA: And this is not to relitigate the original decision to go into Iraq.

It is to suggest that if the American people and the Congress had understood then that after devoting $1 trillion, which is what this thing optimistically will end up having cost, thousands of American lives, the creation of an environment in which Al Qaida in Iraq could operate because it didn’t exist prior to our invasion, that we have increased terrorist recruitment around the world, that Iran has been strengthened, that bin Laden and Al Qaida are stronger than at any time since 2001, and that the process of Iraqi reconstruction and their standard of living would continue to be lower than it was pre- invasion, that if that had been the deal, I think most people would have said that’s a bad deal, that does not make sense, that does not serve the United States’ strategic interests.

And so I think that some of the frustration you hear from some of the questioners is that we have now set the bar so low that modest improvement in what was a completely chaotic situation, to the point where now we just have the levels of intolerable violence that existed in June of 2006 is considered success, and it’s not.

This continues to be a disastrous foreign policy mistake. And we are now confronted with the question: How do we clean up the mess and make the best out of a situation in which there are no good options, there are bad options and worse options?

And this is not a criticism of either of you gentlemen, this is a criticism of this president and the administration which has set a mission for the military and for our diplomatic forces that is extraordinarily difficult now to achieve.

OBAMA: And there has been no acknowledgement of that on the part of this administration, so that we have the president in Australia suggesting somehow that we are, as was stated before, kicking A-S-S.

How can we have a president making that assessment? And it makes it very difficult then for those of us who would like to join with you in a bipartisan way to figure out how to best move forward to extricate this from the day-to-day politics that infects Washington. So I just wanted to get that on the record.

Final stipulation, I think the surge has had some impact, as I suggested. I would hope it would, given the sacrifices and loss that have been made. I would argue that the impact has been relatively modest given the investment.

And I have to say that, based on my testimony, it is not clear to me that the primary success that you’ve shown in Anbar has anything to do with the surge. You said, in this testimony, that it’s political the reason for the success in Anbar, not because of an increase in troop strength.

We have, maybe, seen some modest decline in sectarian violence inside Baghdad as a consequence of our troop withdrawals. That has been purchased at the cost of increased U.S. casualties and is unsustainable. What we haven’t seen is a significant disarming of the Shia militias. Again, during your testimony you’ve told us that essentially the Shias decided, even before we got there, to get on one knee and to wait it out.

We haven’t seen, most importantly, any significant improvement, in terms of the central government’s performance. It continues to be ineffectual and we have not seen national reconciliation of the sort that was promised prior to the surge.

So I just think it is important for us to get all that clear and on the record because that provides the context in which we are going to have to be making a series of decisions.

Tough, grilling questions are one thing; pessimism, political (re: presidential ambitions) posturing are another. Had Senator Obama been "President" Obama in 2006, there would not have been a military surge strategy implemented. There would be no push for achieving success in Iraq.

By way of Bottomline Upfront:

Fifteen of Eighteen Benchmarks Met in Iraq (outperforming our own Congress, of course)

BBC Reports on the Rebirth of Baghdad (also reported in Der Spiegel)

Also, from an unpublished blogpost I started about a week ago:

Progress of Iraqi Army, including logistics.

Turnabout in Iraq a ‘Miracle’

Had Senator Obama actually been in the U.S. Senate and seen the same 2002 NIE that Democrats were privy to, would he still have voted in opposition to the war? If the answer is "yes", I question his judgment to lead this great nation of ours. Would he have taken the time to read the classified version, and be pinned down to actually cast a vote?

From LA Times Top of the Ticket blog, November 12, 2007:

On Sunday's "Meet the Press" interrogation, host Tim Russert quizzed the Illinois senator closely on a number of apparent inconsistencies between his actions and stated positions -- taking state lobbyists' contributions while criticizing federal lobbyists' contributions to his opponents, and not releasing documents, schedules, memos, etc., from his days as an Illinois state senator while criticizing Hillary Clinton for not releasing papers from her White House years.

Russert also inquired about inconsistent quotes by Obama about the Iraq war, leading to this exchange:

RUSSERT: You were not in the Senate in October of 2002. You did give a speech opposing the war. But Sen. Clinton’s campaign will say since you’ve been a senator there’s been no difference in your record. And other critics will say that you’ve not been a leader against the war, and they point to this: In July of '04, Barack Obama, “I’m not privy to Senate intelligence reports. What would I have done? I don’t know,” in terms of how you would have voted on the war. And then this: “There’s not much of a difference between my position on Iraq and George Bush’s position at this stage.” That was July of '04. And this: “I think” there’s “some room for disagreement in that initial decision to vote for authorization of the war.” It doesn’t seem that you are firmly wedded against the war, and that you left some wiggle room that, if you had been in the Senate, you may have voted for it.

OBAMA: Now, Tim, that first quote was made with an interview with a guy named Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" during the (2004 Democratic National) convention when we had a nominee for the presidency and a vice president, both of whom had voted for the war. And so it probably was the wrong time for me to be making a strong case against our party’s nominees’ decisions when it came to Iraq.

But wait. Wasn't it Obama who's been criticizing other Democrats, specifically Clinton, for triangulation, calculating quotes and saying different things to different audiences to avoid alienating any potential voters?

-- Andrew Malcolm

The "nominee for president and vice president in 2004" Obama talks of, were making strong anti-war statements; so his response to Russert's question just reads to me like more wiggling.

What exactly does Senator Obama stand for? The Candidate of Chameleon-like Change?

Slightly different post over at Flopping Aces

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