The Spectacle Blog

Obama and the Surge

By on 7.22.08 | 10:19AM

In one of the defining moments of the last presidential election, John Kerry was boxed into saying that knowing what he knew in 2004, he still would have voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq. It seems to me that Barack Obama was trying to avoid that mistake last night, in an interview with "Nightline." The Web version of the interview reads:

So far this month, five U.S. troops have been killed in combat, compared with 78 U.S. deaths last July. Attacks across the country are down more than 80 percent. Still, when asked if knowing what he knows now, he would support the surge, the senator said no.

"These kinds of hypotheticals are very difficult," he said. "Hindsight is 20/20. But I think that what I am absolutely convinced of is, at that time, we had to change the political debate because the view of the Bush administration at that time was one that I just disagreed with, and one that I continue to disagree with -- is to look narrowly at Iraq and not focus on these broader issues."

So basically, even though the surge has been a tremendous success that has actually made withdrawing troops under stable conditions a much better possibility, he still wouldn't have supported it because he had a political disagreement with Bush. Obama would rather see failure in Iraq than take off his ideological blinders.

Obama goes on to say that Gen. Petraeus expressed "deep concerns" about a timetable, but that doesn't seem to matter to Obama.

But the most startling statement in the interview was this:

"I think it is indisputable that, because of great work that they have done, as well as the unbelievable work that the troops have done, we've made significant progress in terms of reducing violence in Iraq," he said.

However, Obama would not attribute the decreased violence entirely to the troop surge, which he opposed, instead saying that it was the result of "political factors inside Iraq that came right at the same time as terrific work by our troops. Had those political factors not occurred, my assessment would be correct. ... The point I was making at the time was the political dynamic was the driving force in that sectarian violence."

Obama's talking point about the surge up until now has always been that while violence decreased as a result of the sacrifice of the troops, we haven't seen any political progress. The only way we'll see political progress, Obama has argued, is to start withdrawing troops to force the hand of the Iraqis by showing them that our commitment isn't open ended. Though it's often difficult to decipher Obamaspeak, now he seems to saying that there was both a reduction in violence and political progress in Iraq over the past year and a half that correlated with the surge strategy, but somehow it's a total coincidence and so he still would have opposed the surge all along.
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