If you are a partisan Democrat, the current state of American foreign policy is apparently something to brag about. Consider just two brainstorms that came to us courtesy of Al Gore’s invention, the world wide web.
Over the weekend, the new policy director for Barack Obama’s reelection campaign sent out an email celebrating the president’s “Mission Accomplished” moment in Iraq. Happy Christmas, the war is over. “With that action,” the message boasted, “the war in Iraq will end. And one of the President’s central promises will have been kept.”
This, we are told, is an “example of what happens when a leader sets a plan in motion and sees it through.” (More on that later.)
Before that, we were treated to Markos Moulitsas’ celebratory tweet following the death of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi: “GOPers who criticized Obama’s approach in Libya… wrong again.”
Let’s start with the central promise being kept, since that comes straight from the horse’s mouth. “As promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year,” President Obama declared. “After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over.”
Well, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has acknowledged, the timeline for withdrawal was actually negotiated by the Bush administration. The troops were scheduled to come home at the end of 2011 before Obama even took office.
In fact, the Obama administration was engaged in negotiations to extend the U.S. military presence in Iraq past the end of this year. As recently as October 17, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta expressed optimism that a deal for an extension could be reached.
So in essence, the negotiations broke down and the Iraqis kicked the United States out. “On Friday,” Eli Lake reported, “Obama presented the loss at the negotiating table as a political victory.”
Now, Obama has good reason to spin this as a fulfilled campaign pledge and the Iraqi government has the right to bid adieu to foreign troops in its sovereign territory. But let’s not pretend this was part of some brilliant master plan.
Maybe the Obama administration bungled the negotiations with Iraq, as Josh Rogin reports, or perhaps there was never sufficient Iraqi support for a continued U.S. military presence (though do note the administration’s absurdly tendentious insistence, appended at the end of Rogin’s article, that such officials as the secretary of defense are not “the White House”). This clearly wasn’t what the White House — scratch that! — the administration had in mind. That’s part of the reason the American footprint will continue in a partially privatized form.
The chain of events in Libya is even further removed from the Obama administration’s control. Aside from the end of one heinous regime, it is not even entirely clear what kind of government will follow. The liberal blogger Matthew Yglesias quipped, “All the best humanitarian interventions end with summary executions.” The best that can be said for Libya as opposed to Iraq is that we have unleashed who knows what consequences at a much lower immediate cost in American blood and treasure.
None of this is to say Republicans are exactly covering themselves in glory. John McCain is upset the troops are going home from Iraq. Perhaps McCain could have negotiated a 100-year extension, but no immunity from Iraqi prosecution for American soldiers would have been a nonstarter even for him. Michele Bachmann, meanwhile, wants Iraq and Libya to “reimburse us for part of what we have done.”
Do our leaders understand what they have done? Is the federal government run by people with any idea what they are doing?