Iraq facts can’t sway Obama
TRY to imagine the conversation between Gen. David Petraeus, U.S. ground commander in Iraq, and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama when they meet in Baghdad this summer.
Obama plans some fact finding when he visits the combat zone. Why bother? This week Obama said he’ll withdraw U.S. troops within 16 months, apparently with little regard for conditions on the ground or Petraeus’ best military judgment. The puzzling sequence has a “Ready, fire, aim” quality to it.
Obama was adamant Tuesday — he can’t have MoveOn.org thinking he’s going back on promises to pull the troops out. No, he hasn’t been persuaded by the successes of last year’s troop surge, al-Qaida’s blunders and the Iraqis’ growing social and political confidence. “I will give our military a new mission my first day in office — ending this war,” Obama said.
His mind is made up. America must retreat from Iraq. And in response Gen. Petraeus is supposed to say what, exactly?
Maybe he’ll explain to the young senator that the war hasn’t been a “distraction,” as Obama puts it, and that even if the candidate doesn’t believe it, al-Qaida certainly has deemed Iraq the central front in the war with the United States. Maybe he’ll tell Obama, gingerly, that he’s wrong to create defeat where victory is so near.
Obama has been wrong about recent Iraq strategy — that the troop surge would fail and make things worse, that America must quit Iraq for Iraq’s leaders to get their act together. Now he’s wrong to set himself in concrete on withdrawal before talking to Petraeus.
“To say you’re going to get out on a certain schedule — regardless of what the Iraqis do, regardless of what our enemies do, regardless of what is happening on the ground — is the height of absurdity,” liberal Brookings Institute military expert Michael O’Hanlon told The Washington Post. Absurd indeed.