During a recent interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, Senator Lindsey Graham took some time out of his precious schedule to criticize the Obama administration over the proposed 2011 December 31st ending of the Iraq War. Graham is not alone in his criticisms in this showdown over the drawdown. 2012 presidential candidates like Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Santorum have also chastised the Obama administration for drawing down on the Iraq War. Despite foreign policy successes like the killing of Osama Bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki, and most recently Moammar Gadhafi, many within the conservative ranks, including Graham, have continued to label President Obama as an absolute failure in regards to American foreign policy. Between Graham and those previously mentioned GOP presidential candidates, the political narrative of President Obama reads as follows, as Graham opined to Chris Wallace by basically saying: ‘The president has fumbled the Iraqi football inside of the 10-yard-line, and his actions of incompetence have completely left Iraq vulnerable to the wretched clutches of Iran.”
So is this claim valid? Has the Obama administration failed Iraq by giving it to Iran by the defaulted consequences of a deadline departure? If Iran does take over Iraq is it the fault of President Obama’s Republican perceived cowardly retreat out of Iraq to appease his ‘Professional Left’ base, so he can get re-elected? According to Graham, Romney, Perry, and others, the answer to those questions is an undeniable yes, as Graham challenged the 2012 presidential candidates to challenge Obama on his failed, national security policies! The crux of this political disenchantment by the Republicans seems to be based heavily on the December 31st drawdown in Iraq, because it has obviously left an unwholesome taste in the mouths of conservatives, who like Senator John McCain, might be content to leave the troops in Iraq for 100 years or more.
Before Chris Wallace interviewed Senator Graham, Wallace interviewed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and grilled her over the Obama administration’s tactics in the Middle East. Clinton, being the crafty, political, veteran that she is, was ready for Wallace’s onslaught. When Wallace questioned the wisdom of the December 31st drawdown, Clinton explained to Wallace that the original, overall goal of the United States was to eventually get the Iraqi forces to that all important point where they would be able to take control of the reins of their country without unconcealed, U.S., political supervision. She reminded Wallace that everything within that provision was incubated and hatched by the Bush 43 administration. Clinton then told Wallace that one way or another, at some point in time, the U.S. was going to have to be prepared to hand over those Iraqi reins. Evidently the Iraqi government has decided that now is the time to do just that. So, what’s the point of arguing with it or trying to delay the inevitable?
And speaking of the Bush 43 administration, it seems illogically insane to try and start distributing failed, Iraqi blame without inviting Bush 43’s antics to the pity party. Now conservatives from all over the GOP woodworks can magically appear and blame the Obama administration for dithering away Iraq’s future into the waiting hands of Iran, but the real culprit for that possible reality is President Bush 43. Chris Wallace did point out the Bush administration’s unquestionable involvement within this equation to Senator Graham, but he was more than reluctant to saddle that horse for a Sunday morning ride of any kind.
But where Graham seemed unwilling, there are those like me who are willing to drag the Bush 43 administration kicking and screaming back into the responsibility arena of Iraqi intervention at the hands of the United States. If handing over the reins to the Iraqi people was going to be so effortful to accept or implement, Bush 43 should have left Saddam Hussein right where he was. There was not a better Iranian deterrent than mighty Saddam. But thanks to Bush 43, the only leadership left in Iraq to turn the reins over to now are governing rookies. But as Secretary Clinton said, at some point you have to be politically mature enough to hand the reins over to the people you’ve claimed to be there for in the first place in order to hand those reins over to, and if the Obama administration is politically comfortable with that point in time being now, then it is its responsibility to follow through on it to enable the progress of political progress regardless of Iraqi inexperience.
It’s like teaching your teenaged child how to drive a car. No matter how many times you take them out for a test drive, eventually you will have to hand the keys over to them so they can finally take on that responsibility in a solo setting or a setting without a supervisory atmosphere. If you didn’t or you don’t have enough confidence in their ability to progress based on the input from your ability to encourage preparation, then obviously you were not the right person for the job, and that responsibility should have been assigned to a more qualified entity. Because whether it’s invading a country or learning how to drive a Yugo, be careful that you don’t pick a responsibility that requires a lot more than you are willing to give or a lot more than you ever had any intentions of giving! Now can anyone guess which administration deserves that one?
No, it won’t be easy. In fact, it usually tends to be quite difficult, and it is often filled with uncertainty. But in the end, it’s all up to the individual who must take those reins as to whether or not they will sink or swim, and all of the preparations in the world cannot change the nature of that sink or swim reality, and the Bush 43 administration should have known this, this current crop of GOP, presidential nominees should know this, as should Senator Graham! And, it will be up to Iraq to decide if Iran should be allowed to drive their car by permission or by aggression. Remember, Iraq is not a state in the union, although it has been occupied like one, and it has probably received just as many, if not more, resources than any state that’s in the union.
So credit the Obama administration for being decisive enough to set the wheels into motion, especially when conservatives are publicly and irrationally clamoring against it, and such unfounded, political behavior is vintage conservatism. On the one hand, the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party criticizes the Obama administration for getting involved in places like Libya based on a financial point of view, while the traditional, war-hawking wing of the Republican Party criticizes the Obama administration for ‘leading from behind’ and making plans on leaving Iraq too soon, and therein lies the problem.
This is why the GOP can’t, as Mick Jagger would say, ‘get no satisfaction,’ whether it’s a not conservative enough Mitt Romney or a politically inexperienced Herman Cain. While one faction of inmates is yelling at the top of its lungs how military intervention is too expensive for a debt riddled United States to take on, the other faction of inmates wants the wars and the conflicts to continue. The problem with this illogicality is ostensible, because you cannot cut the deficit on one hand, while enabling, epic, long-running, defense spending through wars, occupations and conflicts on the other.
In fact, let’s take it a step further by saying that the Obama administration’s ‘leading from behind’ motto, which is considered by many to be the ‘Obama Doctrine,’ just might be the mythical dragon slayer that the GOP has been looking for; making President Obama their politically oppositional Beowulf! Through leading from behind and the eventual drawdown in Iraq, Obama has been far more financially efficient than President Bush 43, and he has also achieved better results from it at the same time. So in actuality, he has minimized costs in Libya, with plans to further minimize costs in Iraq, once the keys to that country are handed over, while still keeping America safe.
So, instead of begging Chris Christie or Sarah Palin to run this offense, maybe the conservatives should just swallow their pride and vote to re-elect President Obama. Because based on the political fruitlessness of their candidate searches, it looks like Obama is still the best, foreign policy quarterback on the world’s field. And if the lowdown on the showdown turns out to be a successful drawdown sliding out of the back, Iraqi door, all of the conservative doubts about President Obama’s foreign policy should be squashed until further notice. It looks like that Harvard education is not as overrated as previously thought, even if Senator Graham is still unimpressed.
The arguments made here are about the political realities of U.S. foreign policy, not the moralities of war as a whole.
Edited by Wendy Gittleson