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June 17, 2008

Barack Obama Must ‘Change’ on Iraq


So Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee for president of the United States. Somehow, some way, Democratic voters thought that their party’s best person for the job is someone who has months-long experience in any position higher than state senator, who has no legislative accomplishments whatsoever and whose time in federal politics has been in large part spent on the campaign trail.


But that’s fine. If Obama is the one whom the Democrats believe is the best individual to lead the country, that’s their business. My business, however, is to fully expect that the man who wants to become president of the greatest country on Earth keep this country, and my family, safe. It is indeed fully my business to demand that Barack Obama show leadership on the most important issue of our time, the War on Terror, and particularly on this war’s most important battle, Iraq.


Barack Obama entered the presidential race at a time when it was especially fashionable to be anti-war. The late months of 2006 to the early months of 2007 produced the worst period in the Iraq war, and casualties among U.S. troops had reached their highest levels since the 2003 invasion. Indeed the Democratic primary contest turned into a debate about which candidate is more opposed to the war (just before it turned into who is more anti-trade), leading even Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democrats’ 2000 vice presidential nominee, to endorse John McCain.


But somewhat inconveniently for Obama and the other Democrats, things started to take a serious turn in late 2007 as the effects of the troop surge and the leadership of General David Petraeus started to kick in. And the situation has only gotten better since.


Through a combination of increased troop numbers and improved leadership, violence levels in Iraq plunged significantly. For instance, Anbar, Iraq’s largest province, switched from being fully controlled by Al Qaeda to being one of the safest places in Iraq. And although even one U.S. military death is too many, it is good to hear that the average number of U.S. soldiers who have died in each of the past six months is only a third of the average number of deaths in the first half of 2007. Last month, in fact, saw the lowest number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq since the 2003 invasion.


In short, with this military progress, accompanied by much political and economic progress, the situation on the ground in Iraq has changed immensely. Yet Barack Obama’s position has not.


Obama thinks he needs to hold his position, and steadfastness is indeed a positive trait. There is, however, a big difference between steadfastness and blind stubbornness. It is one thing to hold on to moral principles, and quite another to refuse to consider changes in a situation with ongoing factual developments.


With the conditions in Iraq showing great improvement, Obama’s opposition to the war is now based on this single argument: We should not have invaded Iraq in the first place.


OK. Fine. Let us accept this argument for a moment, regardless of what we thought of the invasion. Let us assume that it was wrong to invade Iraq in 2003. Now what?


Well, we still should not withdraw from Iraq today. A withdrawal would bring death, violence and destruction on a scale perhaps never seen even in the Middle East. Iraq would become a violent playground for Iran and the Sunni Arab states, not to mention a home for every terrorist organization in the region. It would severely destabilize the Middle East and the world.


It is thus completely irrelevant whether it was a good idea to invade Iraq in the first place. Obama can criticize President Bush day and night for making a stupid decision in 2003, and remain completely consistent by maintaining that we cannot withdraw anytime soon. Insisting instead, as Obama has, that we should withdraw simply because Bush made a bad decision in 2003 would mean risking global stability purely because of anti-Bush bitterness. And that is reckless and dangerous.


Bitterness and stubbornness are not real leadership. Barack Obama wants to be president in 2008, not 2003, and should therefore base his positions on facts in 2008, rather than 2003.


Indeed this is one good “change” that Obama should undergo. His blind party-line position represents anything but change. It is old and tired – and there is nothing new about it.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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