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How to Talk About Iraq

Former national security adviser Stephen Hadley provides some much needed perspective on the Iraq war:

From a national security perspective, the U.S. objective for a post-Saddam Iraq was an Iraqi government that would not pursue weapons of mass destruction, invade its neighbors, support terror, or oppress its people. That objective has been achieved. The governments that have followed Saddam—and those that are likely to govern going forward—have and will continue to meet these criteria because the Iraqi people have concluded that doing so is in their interest.

The U.S. objective was also to leave behind an Iraq that would be able to govern itself, defend itself, sustain itself and be an ally in the war on terror. That objective has also been achieved.

Unlike Obama’s statements to date — we hope tonight’s speech will be a change for the better — Hadley gives credit where credit is due:

The Iraqi people are the main authors of this success. They endured great brutality under Saddam, suffered enormous hardship after the invasion, joined forces with us to liberate themselves from al Qaeda terrorism, and turned out to vote despite rampant violence. But even Iraqis admit that they could not have succeeded without the United States.

Perhaps the most critical moment was President Bush’s decision in January 2007 to add over 20,000 American combat troops and change the military strategy. He was actively opposed by a majority of the Congress and a commentariat that argued for everything from withdrawing immediately to partitioning the country.

Hadley is also gracious in the extreme, declining to point out Obama’s specific errors in judgment in deeming the war lost and opposing the surge. He chooses to focus on the positive instead: “To his credit, President Obama has built on this success. As promised, he is continuing to bring our troops home but without jeopardizing what has been achieved. His next task is to realize a long-term diplomatic, economic and security partnership between Iraq and the United States.”

Hadley is behaving more presidential than the current Oval Office occupant. But then the Bush team was always a class act. In that regard, Obama’s not-Bush behavior is all the more noticeable and disappointing.