Ronald Reagan joke as related by Peggy Noonan
When we on the left comment on President Obama's speech concerning the winding down of the Iraq War, it's been a real fear of mine that we would be seen as defending our own interests by saying that nothing has changed and that the war continues. In the joke above, the bureaucrat at the BIA had a job for as long as a particular Native American remained alive. The bureaucrat was crying for himself because when the Native American perished, the bureaucrat had to go out, in Reagan's thinking, into the "real world" and find himself a "real job," he couldn't depend on some "cushy, taxpayer-funded job" anymore. Of course, the two situations are not the same in that being a member of the anti-war movement is not a job that pays anything. I listened to lots of accusations back before the war started that communists and/or foreigners were funding the anti-war movement.
Being unemployed at the time, I assured the accusers that if there was any money to be made in opposing the war, I would have found a way to make some.
In any event, I don't want us in the anti-war movement to be seen as defending "our turf" by saying "The war continues." The President certainly doesn't try to make it sound as though everything is peachy-keen and that the US can start drawdowns with ease or that all is smooth sailing ahead:
As a veteran, I appreciated his words for the troops:
The drawdown is clearly split up into two distinct pieces, and after 31 August 2010, we'll get to the second part of it:
Obama promises to work with the region as a whole, including Iran and Syria.
Concerns here, but a generally sound and sensible policy. And yes, this speech is absolute music to my ears after Bush's lies and nonsense and straw-man arguments and simplistic verities. The liberal blogger Juan Cole asks: "So has Obama been reduced to 'Bush Lite' on the Tigris?" commenting that Obama "has made the left of his party as nervous as a vegan in a butcher shop." Cole points out that producing a navy and an air force are developments that will take an independent Iraq many, many years to accomplish, so we shouldn't expect any quick drawdown of either. Cole swats aside the claim that Bush's policies prepared the way for Obama to achieve such a success. He makes it clear that staying out of Iraq to begin with would have been the better, less destructive policy.
John McCain, like an Arizonan Cassandra, harped on the small terrorist movement that styled itself "al-Qaida in Mesopotamia," and predicted that "If we leave Iraq there will be chaos, there will be genocide, and they will follow us home." Obama's compromise decisively rejects McCain-style fear-mongering and his quixotic quest for long-term bases.
The new president forcefully rejected Bushian mission creep. Obama admitted, "We cannot rid Iraq of all who oppose America or sympathize with our adversaries. We cannot police Iraq's streets until they are completely safe, nor stay until Iraq's union is perfected." In other words, he is prepared to depart Iraq even if it remains somewhat divided, even if a drumbeat of subdued violence continues in its cities, and even if anti-Americanism retains a certain purchase on the population.
Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) feels that as the US has been training Iraqis since the war began, then there's really very little hope that their training will be completed any time soon. The interviewer pointed that he called Obama's speech a "step in the right direction" four times in four minutes. Siun of firedoglake points out that:
At the same time, the level of control Obama has granted the Petraues/Odierno team over the withdrawal is worrying– in particular, his willingness to allow them to keep the bulk of US forces in Iraq through the next election – and then some.
Nowhere in the speech (nor in the various commentaries) have I seen a mention of our plans for withdrawing US forces to bases this June as required by the SOFA. This requirement - meant to get US forces out of the day to day active involvement in Iraq security seems to be forgotten – and given Odierno’s statements even as the SOFA was being signed that we could ignore that requirement – why not?The SOFA is the Status Of Forces Agreement that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki insisted that President Bush agree to. Bush clearly agreed because he saw no alternative.
Maliki may have felt that he had to settle for the details of the final deal, but clearly, the deal was not simply dictated by the US. It was the result of intense bargaining between the US and Iraq.
It's troubling that the SOFA was not spoken of as the final word on the deal. Cole agrees that large-scale troop withdrawals might have to wait until after the Parliamentary elections of December 2009. March to December is an awfully long time to wait and still keep up political pressure to see to it that withdrawals happen on schedule.