By Rich Trzupek
Last week, Vice President Joe Biden (finally!) acknowledged that the men and women fighting in Iraq have been victorious in the war on terror. Hurrah! However, Biden attributed their success to a most incredible source: the Obama administration.
Last week, the Hair-Plug In Waiting had the audacity to say this: “I am very optimistic about Iraq. I mean, this could be one of the great achievements of this administration.”
Really Joe? How exactly does that work? How can an administration led by two guys who steadfastly opposed the increased commitment of American troops in Iraq – aka: “the surge” – claim credit for a victory that those leaders did everything in their power to avoid?
When the surge was first proposed, then Senator Barack Obama vigorously opposed the move, saying that the move had no chance of establishing stability in Iraq. In an interview held in 2007 Obama said:
“We can send 15,000 more troops, 20,000 more troops, 30,000 more troops – I don’t know any expert on the region or any military officer that I’ve spoken to privately that believes that is going to make a substantial difference on the situation on the ground.”
Actually, 30,000 more troops made a very substantial difference on the situation on the ground. Those extra troops allowed United States military forces to establish safe havens within Iraq, which, in turn, provided the stability that gave the sheiks controlling tribal regions the confidence to oppose the reactionary Taliban elements that were trying to destabilize the nation. In 2008, Presidential candidate Barack Obama apparently forgot everything he had said a year ago:
“I had no doubt and I said at the time when I opposed the surge that given how wonderfully our troops perform that if we place 30,000 more troops in there then we would see an improvement in the security situation and we would see a reduction in the violence.”
If Obama’s contradictory reactions were disingenuous, given his history, then the way that Biden claimed victory was positively surreal. Not only did Biden strenuously oppose the surge, he was also the author of an alternate strategy that would have ripped Iraq into three pieces, an idiotic proposal that put our troops on the ground in more danger.
When Biden called for division, in 2006, the biggest problem was Sunni militants, who are most prevalent in the center of Iraq. The north is dominated by Kurds and the south by Shiites. The big oil fields are in the north and the south.
So, what Biden’s proposal did was to further enflame Sunni militants who saw it as a way to cut them out of Iraq’s oil revenues. Biden would later claim that wasn’t his intention at all, but it really didn’t matter what his intention was. What mattered was how the proposal would be perceived by the Sunnis, and – in that context – it played on their worst fears.
The only thing that Obama and Biden did was to not screw up the military and political strategy that had been put in place under the Bush administration. It’s a measure of the President’s performance when one can be grateful when he manages not to screw something up.
And, less we forget, Obama did not follow through on his plan to bring home a brigade a month from Iraq. Nor will he fulfill his pledge to have all of the troops out of Iraq within sixteen months of his assuming office. Kudos to President for not throwing away victory. That is something of an “achievement” I guess.
What Obama has done, and what he will hopefully continue to do, is to follow the plans that his predecessor and military leaders put in place. This includes the troop draw down that is set for August, which was part of the agreement that Bush signed with the Iraqi government.
Victory in Iraq is one the great achievements of an administration. The problem here is that Joe Biden doesn’t seem to understand which one.