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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Obama, McCain, the MSM, and Iraq

The cynicism of the MSM is most amplified in their coverage of Iraq. When it was going badly, the coverage was nonstop. They couldn't wait to reach the scene of the newest car bomb and report on the horror and death. Abu Ghraib received no less than 50 front page stories in the New York Times alone. Where has all that coverage gone? It went the way of success by our military and the strategy implemented by General Petraeus and approved by President Bush.

Now, most of the MSM has begrudgingly begun to admit that not only has the surge succeeded in reducing the level of violence. but in bringing about much needed political reconciliation.

Now, imagine you have two stock analysts. One analyst found a company beaten down by a string of poor earnings quarters and put a buy recommendation on the stock at the bottom. Another analyst pronounced that same company dead and put a strong sell recommendation on the company expecting it to be out of business imminently. Then, the stock shot up and the second analyst put a buy recommendation on the stock at the top.

Which of those two would be more credible? The answer is obvious. On Iraq, we have two Presidential candidates that have made assessments of Iraq that are no different in their results than the two analysts. John McCain supported the surge when things looked at their worst. Barack Obama never supported the surge. Now, it appears he is finally coming around.

Now, how should the media report on these two analysts? Should they focus on the second analyst's new found respect for a company they disregarded as the company shot up, or should they focus on the incorrect sell recommendation the analyst held until recently? Again, the answer is obvious.

So, what should the media report on in the case of Iraq? Should the media place most of its focus in analyzing the recent flexibility that Obama has found, or should they focus on the important judgment failure he had? The answer is also obvious.

Yet, what the media has done is overlook what is most important regarding Iraq, the two candidates and this election. The most important thing is that one has been right about the strategy and one has been wrong. In matters of war, more than most, the important thing is to be right. One has shown a propensity for being right and the other for being wrong. That is what is important. It is easy after seeing violence fall, political reconciliation start, and the central government becoming much more effective to change your mind and shift your position on Iraq. What is difficult is to be John McCain circa April 2007 and stand up for the surge when that created a political liability. Yet, that is not something the media likes to draw much attention to.

Instead, the media is analyzing Obama's current position. Here is the WAshington Post

In fact, Mr. Obama can't afford not to update his Iraq policy. Once he has the conversations he's promising with U.S. commanders, he will have plenty of information that "contradicts the notion" of his rigid plan. Iraq's improvement means that American forces probably can be reduced next year, but it would be folly to begin a forced march out of the country without regard to the risks of renewed sectarian warfare and escalating intervention in the country by Iran and other of Iraq's neighbors. The Democratic candidate is reportedly planning a visit to Iraq in the coming weeks. That will offer an opportunity for him to lay out a new position on the war that both distinguishes him from Mr. McCain and gives him the freedom to be an effective commander in chief.

Of course, this editorial fails to editorialize on the most important thing. The reason that Obama needs to update his policy is because he has been championing an incorrect one since the beginning of 2007.

The Washington Post is not the only ones doing this. Here is George Packer.

In February, 2007, when Barack Obama declared that he was running for President, violence in Iraq had reached apocalyptic levels, and he based his candidacy, in part, on a bold promise to begin a rapid withdrawal of American forces upon taking office. At the time, this pledge represented conventional thinking among Democrats and was guaranteed to play well with primary voters. But in the year and a half since then two improbable, though not unforeseeable, events have occurred: Obama has won the Democratic nomination, and Iraq, despite myriad crises, has begun to stabilize. With the general election four months away, Obama’s rhetoric on the topic now seems outdated and out of touch, and the nominee-apparent may have a political problem concerning the very issue that did so much to bring him this far.


Obama, whatever the idealistic yearnings of his admirers, has turned out to be a cold-eyed, shrewd politician. The same pragmatism that prompted him last month to forgo public financing of his campaign will surely lead him, if he becomes President, to recalibrate his stance on Iraq. He doubtless realizes that his original plan, if implemented now, could revive the badly wounded Al Qaeda in Iraq, re├źnergize the Sunni insurgency, embolden Moqtada al-Sadr to recoup his militia’s recent losses to the Iraqi Army, and return the central government to a state of collapse. The question is whether Obama will publicly change course before November. So far, he has offered nothing more concrete than this: “We must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in.”

Joe Klein spins it in a similar manner.

Daily attacks continue, but at a fraction of 2006 levels--indeed, at levels not seen since before the Sadrist and Falluja rebellions began in April of 2004. Al Qaeda in Iraq still has the capability to ignite the occasional car bomb, but it has been weakened to the point of defeat. The real estate market in Baghdad is beginning to blossom. And on a broader front, as reported in The New Yorker and The New Republic, Al Qaeda's wanton butchery is facing an intellectual challenge from within its own ranks....Indeed, the successful operations in Basra, Sadr City and Mosul have had a completely unexpected effect on the stature of the formerly hapless Nouri Al-Maliki: At a recent cabinet meeting after the Sadr City operation, the entire room stood when Maliki entered, a sign of newfound respect for a leader who was regarded aslittle more than a place-holder only months ago.


Well, there is the question of long-term U.S. bases and the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) now being negotiated by the Bush and Maliki governments. The Bush Administration, the Kaganite neocons and John McCain have been dreaming of arrangements like those the U.S. military has enjoyed in Germany and Korea. No chance of that. As the Washington Post reports today, the Iraqis are pretty much opposed to a big U.S. presence...and so is the American public. My guess, backed by reporting, is that four years from now, if current trends continue, there will be about 30,000 U.S. forces stationed at 3 or 4 bases in Iraq--a troop level that Barack Obama would probably endorse. It is extremely unlikely, given the natural truculence of Iraqis (for which they are famous in the region), that those 30,000 would be allowed to remain in perpetuity.

All of these folks seem to think that as long as Obama adjusts his position in time for the election everything will be fine. That is of course nonsense. Anyone can figure out what to do when we are on the brink of victory. The difficult decisions come when things look dire. Then, John McCain was right and Barack Obama was wrong. The MSM seems to gloss over that inconvenient fact and focuses instead on Obama's future strategy.

We are here because of a strategy that McCain supported when no one else would, and we are here despite Obama's vociferous opposition to the same strategy. Had we done what Obama wanted AQI would be ruling Iraq along with Iran and Syria. We would have suffered the most humiliating defeat in our history. The victory that Obama claimed could never happen is on the brink of happening. It is happening despite Obama's best opposition, and because of McCain's strong support.

That is what the MSM should be focusing on as far as this debate is concerned. If one candidate supported a policy when no one else would and that policy proved only long later to be successful while another candidate opposed that same policy when that was political advantageous, which of those two candidates should be President? That is the question the MSM should be asking, and the answer is obvious.


Anonymous said...

Obama's greatest skill after vacuous "I can see his lips moving so I know he's lying rhetoric" is jumping in front of a parade and pretending to lead it.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I thought Senator Obama had some intelligence in his head until he made his absurd remarks today. He said, "Americans should learn to speak Spanish." Um, I have learned Spanish. And (yes, a sentence can correctly begin with "and"), as a very white Caucasian, I am very proud to speak, read and write Spanish very well. I took five years of this language--four in high school and one in college. Now, Mr. Obama claims that immigrants do learn English here in the good old USA. Well, it seems the would-be (er, wanna be) presidential hopeful has never spent any real time here in California. When I patronize most fast-food restaurants here (which is often), I routinely encounter Hispanic workers who do not speak any English and do not even know the English word for "lettuce." This is an item these workers are handling all day and they can't even learn this simple word. I will tell you what it is in Spanish. It is "lechuga." Now, these immigrants (likely illegal) better learn to speak some English. After all, that is the basic requirement for US citizenship. Maybe, just maybe, if they learned enough English, taxpayers would not have to pay millions of dollars for voting materials to be printed in hundreds of different languages.