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Not Encouraging

A report today tells us that Barack Obama foreign policy advisor Susan Rice says the issue of Obama’s failure to visit Iraq is “garbage” and since President Bush and Vice President Cheney went and didn’t learn much, neither would Obama. Well, this is disturbing on multiple levels. First, “garbage” is how a foreign policy adviser talks ? (Is this the trash-talk express again?) Second, Bush and Cheney apparently did learn things in Iraq–they changed their entire strategy there, after all. And even if they had not, isn’t Obama supposed to be smarter and more adept at uncovering facts than they? Finally, this suggests that the know-nothing-ism that now seems to characterize the Obama approach to Iraq is not abating anytime soon and, indeed, is being encouraged by his advisers.

The report explains:

Brookings Institution military expert Michael O’Hanlon, who advised 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, says politicians need to see the post-surge changes in Iraq first-hand.”I think it’s a no-brainer,” says O’Hanlon, adding that Obama would be “remiss” as a candidate if he didn’t visit soon. O’Hanlon once was sharply critical of U.S. policy in Iraq, but after several post-surge visits is hopeful of a good outcome.”I’m struck by how much you learn on these trips, when you meet enlisted soldiers or a battalion commander in the field … When commanders in the field say it’s going a lot better, they’re not saying that because George Bush told them to. Obama’s going to get a lot of straight talk,” O’Hanlon says.

(For those interested in prior critiques by O’Hanlon of Iraq, much of his writing is available here. His New York Times piece, co-written with Kenneth Pollack, is worth a re-read as well.)

But are we now to assume that Obama going forward will be deaf to any new facts that conflict with his predetermined views on Iraq? One certainly hopes not, but it is becoming harder and harder for him to align himself with reality the more he and his advisers protest that there is nothing more to learn.


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