"Iraq could be one of the great achievements of this administration"
- Vice President Joe Biden on CNN
The Obama administration is no different from any of its predecessors when it comes to shifting blame for failure and taking undeserved credit for success. All administrations engage in minor hypocrisy for their political benefit. It is expected and accepted for the most part. However the Obama administration has taken it to a ridiculous extreme. This is evident when the president uses Bush era deficits to rack up exponentially more debt. It is also evident in the prosecution of terrorists in Federal courts. But nowhere is it more blatant than in the recent comments by the Vice President taking credit for the progress in Iraq.
In 2007 then Senator Obama vehemently opposed the surge, which is responsible for the continued stabilization and political reconciliation seen in Iraq. He did not just oppose the surge; he gave speeches guaranteeing that additional troops will only lead to more violence and instability. He wanted nothing short of a troop withdrawal because the war was a lost cause, a sentiment echoed by congressional Democrats. Meanwhile, then Senator Joe Biden had the brainstorm of dividing Iraq into three different countries. He was convinced that this was the only way to have any semblance of peace in Iraq. Neither Senator Obama nor Senator Biden expressed an iota of confidence or support for the Bush surge strategy.
Candidate Obama ran on the platform that the only thing to do about Iraq was to bring the troops home. Never once did he admit to the gains of the surge or accept the evidence of stability. In fact he made it a cornerstone of the campaign to summarily dismiss it. Now that the candidate is president, he is more than willing to tout Iraqi success and take credit for it. Even when faced with overwhelming evidence of success, the administration has yet to acknowledge that the Obama/Biden stance against the surge was wrong. A debate on the potential outcome of Iraq if either of their ideas were followed has been conveniently missing. The leap from vehement opposition to the surge strategy to self congratulation on the success of the same strategy has been phenomenal.
President Bush set the stage for an Iraqi success not because of, but in spite of Obama and Biden. The military success, the Sunni awakening, the political progress, and the withdrawal timeline are all Bush legacies. The current administration's contribution to the progress in Iraq has been to leave it alone. Ironically President Obama's Afghanistan strategy mirrors his predecessor's "secure and hold" surge strategy in Iraq. Now no one expects this administration to give George Bush credit for anything. Their motto has always been, "if it works, credit Obama; if it fails, blame Bush." It worked for them in the campaign and it worked in the first few months of the presidency. But in this case, as Charles Krauthammer points out, they should at least have the decency to say Iraq will be an American success.
The truth is that almost everything President Obama has tried to fix has gone from bad to worse. Obama’s thirteen-month obsession over health care has caused a countrywide revolt leading to Democrats jumping ship. The economy (even after the $862B hoodwink they call stimulus) is still flatlining at best. A whopping 6% of Americans think that the so called Recovery Act has created jobs. As the joke goes – the only "shovel ready" projects available are related to clearing the snow in DC. The deficit has skyrocketed, and the jobless rate is bleaker than before the stimulus. In response to the people's concerns over jobs, the President convened a televised bipartisan health care summit. On the international front, Iran is more belligerent than ever, and moving toward a dictatorship. Who would have thought that the personal letter Obama wrote to Iranian leaders would fall on deaf ears?
Thus, besides AfPak (where there is genuine progress and Obama deserves credit), everything this President touches becomes radioactive. The only thing he didn't touch, Iraq, has blossomed. To take credit for that is like a motorist taking credit for saving pedestrian lives just because he did not run them over. Although, to be fair, perhaps Obama deserves a little credit here. The temptation to change the Iraq policy must have been profound. Letting things be, and thus devoid of the Obama stamp, is not something this administration does well. So in a way, it is an achievement that they left Iraq alone. One might just conclude that if Obama wants anything to work, he should leave it alone.