Robert Kaplan has an eminently sensible column in Atlantic which essentially says Barack Obama can still take credit for opposing the war, but then get with the McCain-Petraeus program. He writes:
A precipitous withdrawal may be the last chance the Iranians will have to dominate Iraq to the degree that they had thought possible in 2006. If Obama heads into the fall campaign without visiting Iraq, without acknowledging progress there, and without altering his time-table for withdrawal, the Iranians may decide to help his electoral chances by initiating a new spate of bombings.In other words, the closer we get to the election, the more consequences Obama’s public position may have for events on the ground in Iraq. And Obama’s position can surely evolve in a direction that acknowledges the need to stay tough there, even as he continues to claim credit for having been against the project from the beginning. Rather than blur the distinction between him and McCain, he can subtly shift on Iraq in a way that demonstrates just how serious a thinker he is on foreign policy.Every email I get from troops deployed in Iraq talks about the improved situation on the ground. Obama should be aware that they think it is far from a lost cause.
And if you don’t by Kaplan, try the AP:
Signs are emerging that Iraq has reached a turning point. Violence is down, armed extremists are in disarray, government confidence is rising and sectarian communities are gearing up for a battle at the polls rather than slaughter in the streets. Those positive signs are attracting little attention in the United States, where the war-weary public is focused on the American presidential contest and skeptical of talk of success after so many years of unfounded optimism by the war’s supporters.Unquestionably, the security and political situation in Iraq is fragile. U.S. commanders warn repeatedly that security gains are reversible.Still, Iraq is by almost any measure safer today than at any time in the past three years. Fears that the country will disintegrate have receded — though they have not disappeared.
(Yes, if AP and others had been reporting what has been going on the public might pay attention more, but let’s be thankful they have stumbled upon the facts, albeit belatedly.)
But even if the facts are getting hard to deny the problem is Obama’s accepting them. The problem is obviously a political one: Obama opposed the surge and used that opposition to vault himself to the Democratic nomination. Can he really say that he was wrong, McCain was right, and now let’s go win the war? This–along with a substantial skepticism about Obama’s national security team and his level of military and foreign policy knowledge–leaves me skeptical that he will take Kaplan’s advice. Instead, we get more muddled doubletalk of the type we saw Monday: “Yeah, violence is down and I’m pulling out just as fast as I can.”