My point here isn't simply to offer a tu quoque argument (rough translation: "You do it too, nyah nyah!"). In truth, I hardly blame opponents of the war for their umbrage. I supported the war, and I still think the arguments in favor at the time were superior to the arguments against. Alas, the facts on the ground didn't care about the arguments.
I long ago conceded that the war was a mistake, but I also didn't think it had to stay one. The future has the ability to change the past. If postwar Iraq grew into a stable, confident nation progressing toward a lawful, decent society, I've argued, then someday in the future the mistake might look like a success.
What so offended me about Obama's approach to postwar Iraq is that he cared almost solely about the postwar part and very little about the Iraq part. He was so determined to fulfill his promise to end the war that he didn't put much thought into what would happen after we got out. That has all but guaranteed the war will remain a mistake.
If someone has a dagger in his chest, the solution isn't necessarily to pull out the dagger immediately. Obama barely tried to negotiate a mutually acceptable status of forces agreement with Iraq, which would have kept U.S. troops there. He even included a poison pill requirement -- that the Iraqi parliament ratify any such agreement -- all but guaranteeing that he could blame the impasse on the Iraqis.
Hillary Clinton recently defined leadership in a democracy as a relay race: "You run the best race you can run; you hand off the baton." Obama was handed a baton he didn't want, so he dropped it.
As a result, he's now being forced to pick it up. I can only hope he does a good job.
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