Pete, I find Ricks’s position an odd one. To recap (before he descended into name-calling), he stated:
I think that invading Iraq preemptively on false premises, at the time that we already were at war elsewhere, was probably the biggest mistake in the history of American foreign policy. Everything we do in Iraq is the fruit of that poisoned tree. But I think also that there are no good answers in Iraq, just less bad ones. I think staying in Iraq is immoral, but I think leaving immediately would be even more so, because of the risk it runs of leaving Iraq to a civil war that could go regional.
Well then was it immoral for candidate Barack Obama to have advocated immediately bugging out of Iraq during the campaign? Was it still immoral when he slightly modified his position to put us on a fixed 16 month time-frame, which would be nearing an end by now? Ricks accepts that now it is right for the U.S. to remain in Iraq in order to prevent regional conflict, but then one wonders why he was not excoriating candidate Obama (and Clinton for that matter) who vehemently opposed this very approach.
This critique, of course, applies to much of the left punditocracy which vilified George W. Bush and John McCain for the “endless commitment” to Iraq. That President Obama has adopted almost entirely the approach advocated by his presidential opponent (minus the rhetoric) perhaps creates too much cognitive dissonance for them. Those who supported the surge are delighted and readily credit the president for continuing the Bush Iraq policy (in the words of his nominee Chris Hill, “I just don’t want to screw it up”) – and committing himself to success in Afghanistan as well. Perhaps the Left will throw in the towel (rather than reply with ad hominem slurs) and concede that President Obama is right and candidate Obama was wrong. Maybe not the “biggest mistake in the history of American foreign policy” — but following candidate Obama’s advice would have come close.