August 21, 2014
It was in the sands of Ramadi that I learned most people want to be masters of their own fate. When we were providing area security for a week-long recruitment drive to re-establish the Ramadi police force, the turnout was overwhelming. More than 1,000 applicants stood in line when death approached in the form of a suicide bomber. The blast killed more than 60 and wounded at least 50. On that day, as on many days before and after, Americans and Iraqis were killed by the same enemy. They fell in pursuit of freedom. One for the other's; one for his own. No matter how things turn out, there was a time when Americans and Iraqis stood united against hate and evil.
How many nations in the course of human events have sacrificed so much to give an unfree people a shot at self-determination? Did Alexander defeat Darius just to give Persia its freedom? Did Caesar conquer Gaul and then say, "Now it's your turn to govern yourself." No other country in history has defeated its enemies only to hand over the reins of government to its native population.
In a region governed by strongmen and factions that imprison or kill each other, there was a time not so long ago when the Iraqi people held their own destiny in their own hands. We, those who fought and sacrificed—and the Iraqis who bravely assisted us—are the ones who placed it there. We join the long line of veterans who fought for another's benefit. We cannot control what people do with a gift, we cannot even be sure they will appreciate it, but that doesn't mean we cannot be proud of the sacrifice that it took to give it.
July 30, 2014
Uh-Oh. It Looks Like *Someone* Didn't Get the Memo
The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight continues to impress:
The terrorist ideology behind al Qaeda is expanding significantly—contrary to President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign theme that declared the Islamist terror threat in decline, according to the outgoing director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
“It’s not on the run, and that ideology is actually, it’s sadly, it feels like it’s exponentially growing,” DIA Director Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn said during a security conference Saturday.
Flynn was asked about the controversy over Obama’s statements during his 2012 reelection bid that al Qaeda had been “decimated” by the U.S. war on terrorism, and that the group was “on the run” as a result.
Flynn challenged use of the term “core al Qaeda” to identify the group once led by Osama bin Laden and now headed by his deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri.
“My belief—so this is Mike Flynn—core al Qaeda is the ideology,” he said.
...A large number of young people in Africa and the Middle East are being sucked into Islamist terror groups.
“These organizations that are out there that are well-organized, they are well-funded, they reach into these young people and they pull them in,” Flynn said. “And there seems to be more and more of them today than there were when I first started this thing in, post 9/11.”
The comments by the DIA chief, an Iraq war veteran who announced in April he will retire in the fall, highlight what critics say is the failure of the Obama administration to target the Islamist ideology. Instead, counterterrorism during the Obama administration has focused on “kinetic” operations, such as drone strikes and special operations raids aimed at killing terrorist leaders.
That's what happens when PR is more important than effectiveness. Just as (another) aside, weren't we assured by the anti-war Left that killing these folks just hardens their resolve and creates more terrorists?
It's almost as though these folks don't really believe the arguments they make. We may have said this a time or twelve, but it never gets old :p
May 01, 2012
More Foreign Policy Wins Inherited from GDubya
It's hard to make sense of President Obama's super secret trip to Afghanistan today without looking back to the 2008 election when President Bush was trying to negotiate a similar agreement with the government of Iraq. Back then, Candidate Obama did everything within his power to undermine the Strategic Framework agreement - up to and including personally interfering with ongoing negotiations between the Bush administration and the Iraqis and then bragging about it:
It's not just Amir Taheri pushing the Logan Act story. Before he ever went to Iraq, Obama's bragging about his meddling in U.S. foreign policy made the pages of the NY Times:Among the issues being discussed with the two presidential candidates is the long-term security accord between Iraq and the United States. [Ed.note, because this will become important later: this is the strategic framework agreement referred to later in the post] While the Bush administration would like to see an agreement reached before the summer’s political conventions, Mr. Obama said today that he opposed such a timetable.
So it seems The One had already commenced unsanctioned telephone negotiations with Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari back in June. His goal was to prevent the White House from successfully concluding negotiations for a long term security agreement with Iraq. Bizarrely, Obama not only admitted what he was doing, but bragged about it repeatedly over the next few weeks:“My concern is that the Bush administration, in a weakened state politically, ends up trying to rush an agreement that in some ways might be binding to the next administration, whether it’s my administration or Senator McCain’s administration,” Mr. Obama said. “The foreign minister agreed that the next administration should not be bound by an agreement that’s currently made.”
Fast forward to 2012. Here we are in the middle of another presidential election season and President Obama is doing exactly what he tried to prevent his predecessor from doing: negotiating an agreement that will bind whoever wins in November. Back then, not content with conducting unsanctioned negotiations with a foreign power, Candidate Obama openly suggested the Bush administration was trying to circumvent Congress:
Obama and Biden believe any Status of Forces Agreement, or any strategic framework agreement, should be negotiated in the context of a broader commitment by the U.S. to begin withdrawing its troops and forswearing permanent bases. Obama and Biden also believe that any security accord must be subject to Congressional approval. It is unacceptable that the Iraqi government will present the agreement to the Iraqi parliament for approval—yet the Bush administration will not do the same with the U.S. Congress. The Bush administration must submit the agreement to Congress or allow the next administration to negotiate an agreement that has bipartisan support here at home and makes absolutely clear that the U.S. will not maintain permanent bases in Iraq.
In a series of intriguing posts on the Foreign Policy blog last fall come these observations:
... where Obama has continued along policy lines laid out by Bush, he has achieved success, but where he has sought to make dramatic changes, he has failed. The bigger the change, the bigger the failure. Not surprisingly, Friedman presents this as a critique of Bush ("Obama and his national security team have been so much smarter, tougher and cost-efficient in keeping the country safe than the "adults" they replaced. It isn't even close, which is why the G.O.P.'s elders have such a hard time admitting it."). Friedman's sneer about the "adults" is unmistakable and it causes him to miss the obvious: where Obama has embraced that "Bush adult" worldview, it has gone well for him and for America. Where he has not, it has not. Indeed, where he has listened to Friedman and other bien pensant types, it has gone very poorly indeed (cf. Israel-Palestine peace process). And where he attempted a major shift in American grand strategy (elevating climate change to be a national security threat co-equal with WMD proliferation and terrorism) he has made almost no progress whatsoever.
President Obama campaigned on a scorched earth critique of the foreign policy he inherited from President Bush. He promised to undo all of it. Some of those promises (withdrawing all combat troops from Iraq in 16 months) barely survived the first few days, while others (unconditional talks with Ahmadinejad or closing Gitmo) were only jettisoned after months of failed efforts. The correlation is almost perfect: the longer Obama hewed to his campaign critique, the less well it has gone in foreign-policy. And, by the way, the supposedly hyper-partisan Republican opposition actually has chalked up a record that compares very favorably with the recent past: where Obama has pursued a genuinely bipartisan policy, he has enjoyed strong bipartisan support.
Back in 2008, despite all the fulmination about an arrogant, unilateral, secretive Bush White House, the negotiations between the US and Iraq took place in the open. I know, because I wrote about it several times. Now, from a man who excoriated his predecessor and then proceeded to double down on policies he had assured us were morally indefensible, we get yet another demonstration of Obama's real position on bipartisanship and transparency. Peter Feaver again:
... the Obama team has been especially loathe to note any parallels with its predecessor ... except in one particular area. In public and private settings, Obama supporters have taken pains to remind people that it was President Bush who negotiated and signed the 2008
Status of Forces Agreement (SoFA)Strategic Framework Agreement that obligates U.S. forces to leave Iraq by the end of 2011. Indeed, some have claimed that this is an inconvenient fact of its own, at least for Republican critics who want to charge that Obama is being reckless in his Iraq policy.
The implicit message is obvious: "we can't be criticized for ending the war in this way because, after all, we are just following the treaty obligations that Bush agreed to. If they were good enough for Bush, they are good enough for us."
That's not quite fair to the Bush policy, however. The Bush team viewed the 2008 SFA, and in particular the 2011 sunset, as a least-worst deal that they could strike with Maliki in advance of Iraqi elections. It was widely understood - and this understanding was directly encouraged by Iraqi interlocutors - that the SFA would be renegotiated after the Iraqi elections, when the new Iraqi government would have a bit more freedom to take necessary but unpopular decisions like allowing a follow-on stabilization force. Bush officials disagreed amongst themselves as to how forthcoming the Iraqis would be in a follow-on deal, but most agreed that it was imperative that a serious attempt be made to renegotiate the SFA at the earliest possible moment.
You don't have to take my word for it. If the plan all along had been simply to implement the 2008 SFA, why did President Obama send a team to Iraq to negotiate a new agreement? Why did the military plan on leaving a residual force? Indeed, as Tom Ricks quotes a colleague as asking, if that was really the plan then why the heck didn't the military plan on leaving at the end of 2011?
In other words, it sure looks like Obama supporters are trying to hide behind the Bush policy, trying to share credit (blame?) for a policy that might be problematic and in need of a little bolstering.
Now I ask you: does this sound like the Obama we all know and love?
UPDATE: Welcome Blackfive readers!
Check out the great video at the link above!