In the Wall Street Journal today, we read that
The Obama administration, faced with mounting Congressional criticism, is trying to build support for its new Afghan strategy by explicitly linking the planned escalation to the Bush administration’s 2007 Iraq surge.
I have a couple of thoughts on this, the first being that it would be appropriate for President Obama to admit (as his secretary of defense has) that his Afghan strategy is based in large part on the Bush strategy in Iraq. But that acknowledgment apparently will not pass his lips.
Second, it’s worth recalling that Obama himself was a fierce critic of the surge/counterinsurgency strategy he now embraces. On January 10, 2007, the night the surge was announced, Obama declared, “I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq are going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse.” A few days later he insisted the surge strategy would “not prove to be one that changes the dynamics significantly.” And responding to President Bush’s January 23 State of the Union address, Obama said
I don’t think the president’s strategy is going to work. We went through two weeks of hearings on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; experts from across the spectrum — military and civilian, conservative and liberal — expressed great skepticism about it. My suggestion to the president has been that the only way we’re going to change the dynamic in Iraq and start seeing political accommodation is actually if we create a system of phased redeployment. And, frankly, the president, I think, has not been willing to consider that option, not because it’s not militarily sound but because he continues to cling to the belief that somehow military solutions are going to lead to victory in Iraq.
As late as July 2008, when asked by ABC’s Terry Moran whether, “knowing what you know now, would you support the surge?” Obama answered, “No.” This was one of the most misinformed and foolish comments of the entire campaign.
I’m of course delighted that President Obama has changed his mind, that he’s seen the errors of his ways, and that he’s now embraced the wisdom of his predecessor when it comes to COIN strategy. But he appears far too arrogant to either admit his past mistakes or to give credit where it is due. Both would be impressive things to do — and with Obama, both are impossible things to expect.
I fully expected Barack Obama would be arrogant as president; what genuinely surprises me is how graceless he has turned out. This is but one way — and not the only way — in which Barack Obama resembles Jimmy Carter.