The Iraq Situation and the Test of Leadership

We need a President we can rely on to figure out what needs to be done, and then have the courage to stick with it, even if it proves unpopular at times. The situation in Iraq is giving us our strongest test of this for Obama and McCain:

The number of weekly attacks in Iraq has dropped from about 1,200 a week in June 2007 to about 200 a week now, the commander of the tactical unit responsible for command and control of operations in Iraq said June 23.

Mirroring this reduction in violence has been a 70 percent decrease in roadside-bomb attacks and an 85 percent spike in the number of weapons caches Coalition forces have found over the past year, Army Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander of Multi-National Corps – Iraq, told reporters via satellite from Baghdad at a Pentagon news conference.

“I attribute most of these hard-fought gains in security to a few key factors: our Coalition forces aggressively pursuing the enemy, the improving capability of the Iraqi Security Forces, and the Iraqi people participating in the rebuilding process of Iraq,” he said.

But the general tempered his optimism, characterizing security improvements as fragile gains that coalition troops are attempting to solidify as they build the capabilities of their Iraqi counterparts.

“While the improved security is a great achievement, we clearly understand that our progress is fragile, and we continue to work to make this progress irreversible,” he said.

The general praised coalition troops for having al-Qaida “on its heels,” yet he identified the organization as the “primary threat” remaining in Iraq. The terrorist group yesterday launched an attack in Baqouba that killed at least 15 people, including several police officers, and wounded dozens of others.

“Even though we assess that they are on the run, they are still capable of launching spectacular attacks,” Austin said, noting yesterday’s bombing in the Diyala province city. “As a result, our operations in the north are focused on defeating their capability to perform these attacks.”

It must be emphasised again and again just what Obama said on the floor of the United States Senate on January 30, 2007:

The time for waiting in Iraq is over. The days of our open-ended commitment must come to a close. And the need to bring this war to an end is here.

That is why today, I’m introducing the Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007.

This plan would not only place a cap on the number of troops in Iraq and stop the escalation, more importantly, it would begin a phased redeployment of U.S. forces with the goal of removing of all U.S. combat forces from Iraq by March 31st, 2008 – consistent with the expectations of the bipartisan Iraq study group that the President has so assiduously ignored.(emphasis added)

If Obama and his Democrats had been able to implement their defeatist plan, then the last US soldier would have left Iraq about 7 weeks ago…and all of the success of the surge would not have happened. In other words, if Obama had got his wish, al-Qaeda in Iraq would not be on the run but would, instead, have patiently waited for us to leave and then struck out from its safe havens in Anbar province, Basra and Sadr City to take over Iraq entirely. Instead of American victory and surging Iraqi liberty, we’d have a new Afghanistan on steriods.

And now lets contrast Obama with McCain’s statement from January 12, 2007:

We should make no mistake – the potentially catastrophic consequences of failure demand that we do all we can to prevail in Iraq. A substantial and sustained increase in U.S. forces in Baghdad and Anbar province is necessary to bring down the toxic levels of violence there.

There is much agreement that the dire situation in Iraq demands a political solution. That is true. But we must also realize what it will take to enable any political solution. It is simply impossible for meaningful political and economic activity to take place in an environment as riddled with violence as Baghdad is today. Security is the precondition for political and economic progress.

Until the government and its coalition allies can protect the population, the Iraqi people will increasingly turn to extra-governmental forces, especially Sunni and Shiite militias, for protection. Only when the government has a monopoly on the legitimate use of force will its authority have meaning, and only when its authority has meaning can political activity have the results we seek.

The presence of additional coalition forces would allow the Iraqi government to do what it cannot accomplish today on its own – impose its rule throughout the country. They can do this by engaging in traditional counterinsurgency activities aimed at protecting the population and breaking the cycle of violence. In bringing greater security to Iraq, and chiefly to Baghdad, our forces would give the government a fighting chance to pursue reconciliation.

McCain was 100% right, Obama was 100% wrong – its not that they had a slight difference of opinion here, good people. Obama wanted us out as quickly as possible, McCain wanted us to stay as long as necessary for us to prevail. Obama’s plan would have ensured our defeat in Iraq and risked a longer, bloodier war in the future; because McCain’s plan prevailed we’ve now got victory in Iraq and a real chance to completely change the socio-political dynamic in the Middle East. Who do you want as President in January – the man who was completely wrong, or the man who was completely right?