« August 2011 | Main | November 2011 »

October 25, 2011

Max Boot Nails it on Iraq and Skewers Obama in the Process

Ok, skewing Obama isn't really very hard as he's just about the worst president we've had in over a hundred years (ok maybe 150). He's in over his head and has no idea what to do other than offer up more liberal nostrums (this from our genius Columbia and Harvard educated president). He's driving our economy into the ground, making the bad situation he inherited worse every day. Overseas his policies are encouraging our enemies and discouraging our allies. We become weaker and weaker, and the result is a more dangerous world.

The leftist idiots and Ron Paul types always get foreign policy wrong. Max Boot knows his history and nails it on Obama's terrible decision to withdraw precipitously from Iraq:

Contentions
The Iraq Withdrawal Is Nothing to Brag About
Max Boot | @MaxBoot 10.21.2011 - 2:26 PM

If there is one constant of American military history it is that the longer our troops stay in a country the better the prospects of a successful outcome. Think of Germany, Italy, Japan or South Korea. Conversely when U.S. troops rush for the exits hard-won wartime gains can quickly evaporate. Think of the post-Civil War South, post-World War I Germany, post-1933 (and post-1995) Haiti, post-1972 Vietnam, or, more recently, post-1983 Lebanon and post-1993 Somalia.

Keep that history in mind as you listen to President Obama boast: "As promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over."

Far from being cause for celebration, Obama's announcement that we will keep only 150 U.S. troops in Iraq after the end of the year-down from nearly 50,000 today-represents a shameful failure of American foreign policy that risks undoing all the gains that so many Americans, Iraqis, and other allies have sacrificed so much to achieve. The risks of a catastrophic failure in Iraq now rise appreciably. The Iranian Quds Force must be licking its chops because we are now leaving Iraq essentially defenseless against its machinations. Conversely the broad majority of Iraqis who fear Iranian influence and who want their country to become a democracy will come to rue this day, however big a victory it might appear in the short term for the cause of Iraqi nationalism.

Ostensibly this pull-out was dictated by the unwillingness of Iraqi lawmakers to grant U.S. troops immunity from prosecution. But Iraqi leaders of all parties, save the Sadrists, also clearly signaled their desire to have a sizable American troop contingent post-2011. The issue of immunity could have been finessed if administration lawyers from the Departments of State and Defense had not insisted that Iraq's parliament would have to vote to grant our troops protections from Iraqi laws. Surely some face-saving formula that would not have needed parliamentary approval could have been negotiated that would have assuaged Iraqi sovereignty concerns while making it unlikely in the extreme that any U.S. soldier would ever go before an Iraqi court for actions taken in the line of duty.

But for that to have happened, President Obama must have been committed to reaching a deal. He was not. Indeed the White House had already leaked word that no more than 3,000 to 5,000 U.S. troops would remain-well below the figure of 20,000 or so recommended by U.S. military commanders on the ground. This effectively undercut American negotiators and signaled to the Iraqis that we were not serious about making a long-term commitment to their future. Under those circumstances, why would Iraqi politicos stick their necks out on an issue like immunity, and run the risk that Obama would spurn them in any case?

The failure to reach a deal now does not, however, mean that no deal can ever be reached. Once U.S. forces pull out by December 31, negotiations could and should be reopened to bring back a sizable contingent-I would argue for a bare minimum of 10,000 troops-to conduct counter-terrorist operations, support the Iraqi Security Forces, and act as a peacekeeping force along the ill-defined border between Iraq proper and the Kurdish Regional Government. By showing our willingness to pull out our troops, the U.S. can show the Iraqis that we are serious about respecting their sovereignty and not bent on a long-term occupation of their country. But of course pulling out all U.S. troops and then bringing some back would be costlier than simply keeping them there.

And any such agreement would run into the same obstacle that has already scuttled the current U.S.-Iraq talks: President Obama appears more determined to gain credit for "ending the war" than for ensuring Iraq's long-term future as a democratic American ally. Like Obama's decision to downsize prematurely in Afghanistan, this is short-term thinking that could come back to haunt the United States-and its commander-in-chief, who is now taking upon himself the burden of blame should Iraq go off the rails.

Posted by Tom at 12:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 24, 2011

Obama Announces Complete Withdrawal From Iraq

The story from The Washington Times

President Obama declared Friday that he will withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of the year, ending talks for an extended deployment with Baghdad and ruling against the earlier advice of some senior military commanders who had recommended keeping several thousand troops there into 2012. ...

The decision ends one of America's longest wars, and caps months of unsuccessful negotiations with Iraq over the issue of immunity for American troops should they stay beyond 2011. Mr. Obama made the announcement after speaking with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on a private video conference.

Currently there are nearly 40,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. While Mr. Obama declared that the war is over, the schedule for total withdraw of U.S. troops is in accordance with a deal struck by President George W. Bush in 2008.

In September, the administration aired plans to reduce the U.S. troop strength in Iraq to about 3,000 by year's end. Some senior military advisers were said to be "livid" about the reduction in force, arguing that more troops were needed to keep training Iraqi forces and to serve as a guard against renewed influence in the country by neighboring Iran.

And while violence is down sharply from its peak levels of five years ago, sectarian violence remains a constant feature of Iraqi life, with both Sunni and Shiite militants regularly staging bombings and other attacks. In just the latest incident, Iraqi officials said a triple bombing in the capital of Baghdad killed at least three people this week.

U.S. military officials have expressed growing alarm in recent weeks about aid they say is being given to Iraqi insurgents from Iran.
...

The U.S. and Iraq had been in talks about keeping more American troops there beyond 2011, but Iraqi leaders, facing fierce domestic political cross-currents, refused to give U.S. soldiers immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts. The U.S. refused to allow its soldiers to stay without such a guarantee.

"We talked about immunity," said Denis McDonough, deputy national security adviser to the president. "We feel like we got exactly what we needed to protect our interests."

The Questions

Did the president try to get a better deal from the Iraqis or did he just give up quickly?

Is this withdrawal in our national interests?

What are the probabilities for Iraq now that the president has taken this action?

Reaction

I'm only going to quote the people I trust. I also don't have much time, so for anyone who doesn't know this blog, that means neither the Daily Kos nor Ron Paul. As a committed neo-con, I buy neither the prescriptions of the far left or the far right.

Key general calls Iraq pullout plan a 'disaster'
Others echo call for strength against Iran
The Washington Times
Sunday October 23, 2011

President Obama's decision to pull all U.S. forces out of Iraq by Dec. 31 is an "absolute disaster" that puts the burgeoning Arab democracy at risk of an Iranian "strangling," said an architect of the 2007 troop surge that turned around a losing war.

Retired ArmyGen. John M. Keane was at the forefront of persuading President George W. Bush to scuttle a static counterinsurgency strategy and replace it with 30,000 reinforcements and a more activist, street-by-street counterterrorism tactic.

Today, even with that strategy producing a huge drop in daily attacks, Gen. Keane bluntly told The Washington Times that the United States again is losing.

"I think it's an absolute disaster," said Gen. Keane, who advised Gen. David H. Petraeus when he was top Iraq commander. "We won the war in Iraq, and we're now losing the peace."

U.S. troops will be vacating Iraq at a time when neither Baghdad's counterterrorism skills nor its abilities to protect against invasion are at levels needed to fully protect the country, say analysts long involved in the nearly nine-year war.

"Forty-four hundred lives lost," Gen. Keane said. "Tens of thousands of troops wounded. Over a couple hundred thousand Iraqis killed. We liberated 25 million people. There is only one Arab Muslim country that elects its own government, and that is Iraq.

"We should be staying there to strengthen that democracy, to let them get the kind of political gains they need to get and keep the Iranians away from strangling that country. That should be our objective, and we are walking away from that objective."

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday warned Iran not to miscalculate the U.S. decision to withdraw its troops.

"No one, most particularly Iran, should miscalculate about our continuing commitment to and with the Iraqis going forward," she said in an interview with CNN from Uzbekistan.

I have news for our secretary of state; Iran is not interested in your words. They pay attention to our actions.

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney asks the relevant question to which I think we know the answer:

President Obama's astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women. The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government. The American people deserve to hear the recommendations that were made by our military commanders in Iraq.

Patrick Brennan points out that while Obama must share much of the blame it's not his fault entirely:

While this is hardly the most inspiring commitment to a nation which was intended to become our staunch democratic Middle Eastern ally, it should be noted that this is not the Obama administration's own decision -- and probably isn't for lack of effort, either. The Iraqi parliament refused to continue legal immunity for U.S. troops, beyond the couple hundred or so who would remain as diplomatic security. Without such a concession, the U.S. had little choice but to abide by the existing Status of Forces Agreement ratified under the Bush administration and by the Iraqi government -- mandating withdrawal by December 2011. It seems that the Obama administration's prodigious reputation for negotiation and diplomacy has failed, again, to protect the security interests of America and her allies.

Even so, the editors of National Review get the big picture and what it means right:

If the Iranians pride themselves on playing chess while we play checkers, they never could have expected us to walk away from the board.

But that's our next move in Iraq. President Obama announced on Friday that all of the roughly 40,000 U.S. troops will leave the country by the end of the year. We are thus handing the Iranians a goal they have sought for years -- to remove us from Iraq entirely so they can better influence the country for their ends.

It once seemed that Iraq could be a strategic ally and base for our influence in the Middle East; it now may become both those things for our foremost enemy in the region. The Iranians must think they either are very lucky or -- more likely very good. The announcement of our total withdrawal comes just weeks after the revelation of an Iranian plot to execute the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. on our soil. It comes as Iran's key Arab ally, the Assad regime in Syria, is rocked by a revolt. Just as Tehran's dangerousness is put in stark relief and as events in Syria threaten to deal it a strategic setback, it gets this windfall.

The Obama administration is talking out of both sides of its mouth on Iraq. On the one hand, it says the total withdrawal is the blessed advent of one of President Obama's most cherished campaign promises, proof of how committed he's always been to ending the Iraq War. On the other, it says on background that this is all the Iraqis' fault, that we wanted to maintain troops on the ground after 2011 but the Iraqis wouldn't budge. It appears that the first factor played into the second -- the administration's lack of commitment to Iraq was the crucial backdrop to its poor handling of inherently difficult negotiations with the Iraqis.

To continue to maintain troops in Iraq after the expiration of the current deal for our presence at the end of the year, we needed the Iraqis to agree to give our troops immunity. This is obviously always a sensitive issue. And negotiations with the Iraqis over almost anything tend to drag out to the breaking point. None of this should have necessarily deep-sixed a deal, given how many top Iraqi leaders say privately that they want to keep American forces in the country. The Obama administration foolishly insisted that the Iraqi Council of Representatives endorse an immunity deal, a political impossibility. But it's hard to believe that if the administration truly wanted to make a deal happen it couldn't have worked something out with enough patience and ingenuity.

Instead, President Obama took to the podium on Friday for a snap announcement of the end of the war. His commanders on the ground wanted to keep more than 20,000 troops in Iraq (the administration had bid this number down to several thousand, perhaps convincing Iraqi political players that cutting a painful deal on immunity wouldn't have enough of a corresponding upside). Such a force would have enhanced our political leverage in Baghdad, checked Iran's already considerable influence, ensured against a return of al-Qaeda, and helped keep a lid on Arab-Kurdish tensions in the north. Now, we'll simply have to hope for the best. Deputy National Security Advisor Dennis McDonough said Iraq is "secure, stable, and self-reliant." It is none of these things. Its government is still inchoate and it is not capable of defending itself from Iran in the air or on the ground.

Our pullout is a bonanza for Tehran. Its militias were already active in Iraq. Now, it can use Iraq for bases for its proxy forces to spread its tentacles in the rest of the Persian Gulf. Independent ayotollahs in Iraq will have an incentive to keep their heads down. Political decisions of the Iranian-influenced Shiite bloc running the country are sure to begin to tilt more and more Iran's way. Our diplomatic leverage will diminish, even as maintain our largest embassy in the world in Baghdad. The Iranians will crow in Iraq and throughout the region that they were right that the Americans would eventually leave.

We expended a great deal of blood and treasure to topple Saddam Hussein, and then to establish enough order so that George W. Bush's successor would only have to consolidate our gains. President Obama is careless enough to risk throwing it all away, and shameless enough to call it success.

In short, Obama didn't try very hard to get a better deal because he doesn't really care and most likely made his decision based more on how it would look for his reelection prospects, and if you don't think this is a victory for Iran you're dreaming.

Update

Max Boot nails it:

If there is one constant of American military history it is that the longer our troops stay in a country the better the prospects of a successful outcome. Think of Germany, Italy, Japan or South Korea. Conversely when U.S. troops rush for the exits hard-won wartime gains can quickly evaporate. Think of the post-Civil War South, post-World War I Germany, post-1933 (and post-1995) Haiti, post-1972 Vietnam, or, more recently, post-1983 Lebanon and post-1993 Somalia.

Posted by Tom at 7:30 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 22, 2011

The Obama Economic and Fiscal Record

Today's Questions for the President
National Review

October 21, 2011 10:24 A.M.

By Peter Kirsanow

In a December, 2009 interview with Oprah Winfrey, you graded your own job performance as "a good, solid B+." You added that "if I get health care passed, we tip into A-." Obamacare has since passed.

* The '"misery index" today is at its highest level in 28 years.
* The unemployment rate has been above 9 percent for 27 of the last 29 months.
* Long-term unemployment is at its highest level in more than 70 years.
* The national debt is $14.8 trillion -- nearly $5 trillion more than four years ago.
* The federal deficit is $1.3 trillion -- more than eight times higher than four years ago.
* Federal spending is $3.57 trillion -- nearly $1 trillion more than four years ago.
* The United States' credit rating has been downgraded for the first time in history.
* You spent $814 billion on a stimulus program so unemployment wouldn't rise above 8 percent and would drop to 6.5 percent by today. Since then, unemployment has never dropped below 8 percent and is 9.1 percent today.
* A record 45 million Americans (nearly one in seven) use the food-stamp program -- 20 million more than four years ago.
* A record 3.8 million foreclosures were filed last year.
* Seventy-seven percent of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track.

In an interview with Jake Tapper a few days ago, you didn't give yourself a specific grade but stated that you "believe all the choices we've made have been the right ones." Is it correct to assume, then, that you were actually shooting for the above results?

What might the above figures be if you had made just one wrong choice? What would the above figures have to be in order for you to give yourself a "D" ?

How long was the wait list for your constitutional-law class?

Posted by Tom at 8:22 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 19, 2011

Obama On Occupy Wall Street: "We are on their side"

When President Obama speaks about the Occupy Wall Street crowd he is "on their side:"

"The most important thing we can do right now is those of us in leadership letting people know that we understand their struggles and we are on their side, and that we want to set up a system in which hard work, responsibility, doing what you're supposed to do, is rewarded," Obama tells ABC News. "And that people who are irresponsible, who are reckless, who don't feel a sense of obligation to their communities and their companies and their workers that those folks aren't rewarded."

Ok then, now that he's gone on record as supporting them, what are they all about?

Polling the Occupy Wall Street Crowd
In interviews, protesters show that they are leftists out of step with most American voters. Yet Democrats are embracing them anyway.

The Wall Street Journal
October 18, 2011

By DOUGLAS SCHOEN

President Obama and the Democratic leadership are making a critical error in embracing the Occupy Wall Street movement--and it may cost them the 2012 election.

Last week, senior White House adviser David Plouffe said that "the protests you're seeing are the same conversations people are having in living rooms and kitchens all across America. . . . People are frustrated by an economy that does not reward hard work and responsibility, where Wall Street and Main Street don't seem to play by the same set of rules." Nancy Pelosi and others have echoed the message.

Yet the Occupy Wall Street movement reflects values that are dangerously out of touch with the broad mass of the American people--and particularly with swing voters who are largely independent and have been trending away from the president since the debate over health-care reform.

The protesters have a distinct ideology and are bound by a deep commitment to radical left-wing policies. On Oct. 10 and 11, Arielle Alter Confino, a senior researcher at my polling firm, interviewed nearly 200 protesters in New York's Zuccotti Park. Our findings probably represent the first systematic random sample of Occupy Wall Street opinion.

Our research shows clearly that the movement doesn't represent unemployed America and is not ideologically diverse. Rather, it comprises an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in radical redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience and, in some instances, violence. Half (52%) have participated in a political movement before, virtually all (98%) say they would support civil disobedience to achieve their goals, and nearly one-third (31%) would support violence to advance their agenda.

The vast majority of demonstrators are actually employed, and the proportion of protesters unemployed (15%) is within single digits of the national unemployment rate (9.1%).

An overwhelming majority of demonstrators supported Barack Obama in 2008. Now 51% disapprove of the president while 44% approve, and only 48% say they will vote to re-elect him in 2012, while at least a quarter won't vote.

Fewer than one in three (32%) call themselves Democrats, while roughly the same proportion (33%) say they aren't represented by any political party.

What binds a large majority of the protesters together--regardless of age, socioeconomic status or education--is a deep commitment to left-wing policies: opposition to free-market capitalism and support for radical redistribution of wealth, intense regulation of the private sector, and protectionist policies to keep American jobs from going overseas.

Sixty-five percent say that government has a moral responsibility to guarantee all citizens access to affordable health care, a college education, and a secure retirement--no matter the cost. By a large margin (77%-22%), they support raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, but 58% oppose raising taxes for everybody, with only 36% in favor. And by a close margin, protesters are divided on whether the bank bailouts were necessary (49%) or unnecessary (51%).

Thus Occupy Wall Street is a group of engaged progressives who are disillusioned with the capitalist system and have a distinct activist orientation. Among the general public, by contrast, 41% of Americans self-identify as conservative, 36% as moderate, and only 21% as liberal. That's why the Obama-Pelosi embrace of the movement could prove catastrophic for their party.

In 1970, aligning too closely with the antiwar movement hurt Democrats in the midterm election, when many middle-class and working-class Americans ended up supporting hawkish candidates who condemned student disruptions. While that 1970 election should have been a sweep against the first-term Nixon administration, it was instead one of only four midterm elections since 1938 when the president's party didn't lose seats.

With the Democratic Party on the defensive throughout the 1970 campaign, liberal Democrats were only able to win on Election Day by distancing themselves from the student protest movement. So Adlai Stevenson III pinned an American flag to his lapel, appointed Chicago Seven prosecutor Thomas Foran chairman of his Citizen's Committee, and emphasized "law and order"--a tactic then employed by Ted Kennedy, who denounced the student protesters as "campus commandos" who must be repudiated, "especially by those who may share their goals."

Today, having abandoned any effort to work with the congressional super committee to craft a bipartisan agreement on deficit reduction, President Obama has thrown in with those who support his desire to tax oil companies and the rich, rather than appeal to independent and self-described moderate swing voters who want smaller government and lower taxes, not additional stimulus or interference in the private sector.

Rather than embracing huge new spending programs and tax increases, plus increasingly radical and potentially violent activists, the Democrats should instead build a bridge to the much more numerous independents and moderates in the center by opposing bailouts and broad-based tax increases.

Put simply, Democrats need to say they are with voters in the middle who want cooperation, conciliation and lower taxes. And they should work particularly hard to contrast their rhetoric with the extremes advocated by the Occupy Wall Street crowd.

Mr. Schoen, who served as a pollster for President Bill Clinton, is author of "Hopelessly Divided: The New Crisis in American Politics and What It Means for 2012 and Beyond," forthcoming from Rowman and Littlefield.

There are five possibilities: One, President Obama is woefully ignorant of the OWS movement. Two, he makes off-the-cuff statements without thinking through the implications. Three, that he actually agrees with them. Four, he knows he is losing the left and is pandering to them. Five, that the reporter just happened to interview the very few radicals in the crowd and somehow missed that the vast majority are normal middle class suburbanites who just want a better life for them and their children.

Ok that last one was a joke. My guess is that it's a combination of the first three. Either way, he looks bad.

For what it's worth I've been to a few dozen right-wing and left-wing rallies and protests in and around Washington DC. See "Rallies and Protests" and "Walter Reed" under Categories at right. My observation is that right-wingers are a lot better behaved, do not carry signs with vulgar messages, clean up after themselves,and dress as normal people dress. The leftists are the opposite in every regard.

Posted by Tom at 7:38 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack