Aside from Barack Obama’s curious political choice to roll out his new Iraq policy before going to Iraq as a matter of common sense and decision-making it is problematic. Consider this from Michael O’Hanlon, who has been doing his level best to convert Obama and the Democrats to a more fact-based approach to Iraq:
“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,” said O’Hanlon, who described himself as “livid.” “I’m not going to go to the next level of invective and say he shouldn’t be president. I’ll leave that to someone else.”
Rich Lowry details the “anti-factual” (really, a-factual) approach of Obama, who deprived of contact with actual commanders and Iraqi officials, just makes stuff up:
Politically, Obama has to notionally support defeating al Qaeda in Iraq, so even after he’s executed his 16-month withdrawal, he says there’ll be a “residual force” of American troops to take on “remnants of al Qaeda.” How can he be so sure there’ll only be “remnants”? If there are, it’ll be because the surge he opposed has pushed al Qaeda to the brink. The more precipitously we withdraw our troops, the more likely it is to mount a comeback. Obama treats as a vindication a recent statement by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki calling for a timeline for withdrawal of US forces. But neither Maliki nor anyone around him talks of an unconditional 16-month timeline for withdrawal as being plausible. His defense minister says Iraqis will be ready to handle internal security on their own in 2012 and external security by 2020. The Iraqis most enthusiastic about Obama’s plan surely are al Qaeda members, Sadrists, Iranian agents and sectarian killers of every stripe. The prospect of a US president suddenly letting up on them has to be the best cause for hope they’ve had in months. His withdrawal would immediately embolden every malign actor in Iraq and increase their sway in Iraqi politics. Obama sticks to the badly dated contention that Iraqis “have not reached the political accommodation that was the stated purpose of the surge.” In fact, roughly 15 of 18 political benchmarks have been met by the Iraqis – progress Obama threatens to reverse. Obama loves to say that we have to withdraw from Iraq “responsibly.” There’s nothing responsible about his plan. US commanders on the ground say it may not even be logistically possible. Does Obama even care? He says that when he’s elected he’d give the military a new mission – to end the war. Conditions in Iraq, let alone winning, are marginalia.
So why go to Iraq and why make a pretense of learning new facts? It seems that after all this Obama, like the critique he is so fond of providing of the current President, has no interest in really learning anything which would contradict his firmly held views: continued presence in Iraq is pointless, Iraq is unimportant in the fight against Al Qaeda, there has been no progress politically, and leaving on a 16-month schedule can proceed without risk. It is all, every bit of it, wrong and contrary to the best available evidence. But the inescapable fact is that Obama either out of intellectual stubborness or fear of his netroot base won’t and can’t recognize the new reality.
Mr. O’Hanlon has every right to be peeved. What we shouldn’t be is surprised.