It is not clear what the President meant when he said, “Ending the war was in our interest.”
First, wars just don’t end. They are a win, a loss, or a draw. By implying that he simply “ended” the war by just following a plan – as if he were imposing a managerial solution over a public policy problem – Obama gave the American people a very a simplistic and wrongheaded notion of war.
No plan survives contact with the enemy. Obama ought to understand this better than anyone. After all, he bitterly opposed the surge which helped break the cycle of violence and made the withdrawal of U.S. troops – without Iraq collapsing into civil war – possible.
Indeed Obama’s opposition to the surge was the centerpiece of his 2008 presidential campaign. And he was dead wrong too. Arguably, if we had followed the plan he advocated as a Senator today’s speech might never had happened.
It was not his plan that turned the war. It was fighting and defeating the insurgency. To suggest anything else is hubris.
Nor is it clear that the war has “ended”—The enemy still gets a vote. There may be more fighting ahead. And there is a war in Afghanistan that still must be won.
Second, the President’s rhetoric seems to suggest that fulfilling a campaign promise to “end the war” is the measure of defending U.S. vital national interests.
It is not.
If defending U.S. interests in Iraq requires additional combat, then we expect the President will fulfill his responsibility to lead the fight and protect our national interests.
The President’s opposition to the war was shrewd political calculation that helped him get elected.
After hearing how he talked about “ending” the war in tonight’s speech he may just be making another one.
This speech, to be frank, smacks too much of politics at the expense of presidential leadership. This is no small thing, and frankly it has tremendous policy implications (not just political ones). Obama is sending signals that “ending” the fight is more important than protecting America’s interests, just as he did when he opposed the Iraq war to appease the Left wing of his party, the same Left wing now trying to drive him out of Afghanistan. This manner of framing U.S. interests does not bode well for U.S. policy in Afghanistan. If the fighting does not go well there the President could begin focusing on the bogus interest of ending the conflict rather than the real mission in Afghanistan: protecting vital U.S. national interests.