Obama on the surge, November 2006: No Hope for the Iraqis

posted at 6:01 pm on July 29, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Earlier today, Jake Tapper did some fact-checking on Barack Obama’s assertion that he always said that an additional 20,000 troops in Iraq would have some positive effect on security.  Tapper couldn’t find any evidence to support that assertion, especially in the time frame of the Congressional debate over the plan.  William Amos found a speech from November 2006 that makes clear Obama’s faulty judgment on what more troops and new strategies and tactics could accomplish:

Dreams of democracy and hopes for a perfect government are now just that – dreams and hopes. We must instead turn our focus to those concrete objectives that are possible to attain – namely, preventing Iraq from becoming what Afghanistan once was, maintaining our influence in the Middle East, and forging a political settlement to stop the sectarian violence so that our troops can come home.

There is no reason to believe that more of the same will achieve these objectives in Iraq. And, while some have proposed escalating this war by adding thousands of more troops, there is little reason to believe that this will achieve these results either. It’s not clear that these troop levels are sustainable for a significant period of time, and according to our commanders on the ground, adding American forces will only relieve the Iraqis from doing more on their own. Moreover, without a coherent strategy or better cooperation from the Iraqis, we would only be putting more of our soldiers in the crossfire of a civil war.

Let me underscore this point. The American soldiers I met when I traveled to Iraq this year were performing their duties with bravery, with brilliance, and without question. They are doing so today. They have battled insurgents, secured cities, and maintained some semblance of order in Iraq. But even as they have carried out their responsibilities with excellence and valor, they have also told me that there is no military solution to this war. Our troops can help suppress the violence, but they cannot solve its root causes. And all the troops in the world won’t be able to force Shia, Sunni, and Kurd to sit down at a table, resolve their differences, and forge a lasting peace.

I have long said that the only solution in Iraq is a political one. To reach such a solution, we must communicate clearly and effectively to the factions in Iraq that the days of asking, urging, and waiting for them to take control of their own country are coming to an end.

How wrong can Obama get in such a short segment of a speech?  Let’s count the ways:

  • Dreams and hopes of a perfect government are always just that — dreams and hopes.  We don’t have perfect government here in the US, either.  However, with the renewed commitment of American military strength, Nouri al-Maliki forged closer ties to Sunnis and Shi’ites and rejected Moqtada al-Sadr, and within eighteen months of that speech had established Iraqi sovereignty throughout most of the country — the sovereignty of a freely-elected central government.
  • “And, while some have proposed escalating this war by adding thousands of more troops, there is little reason to believe that this will achieve these results either.”  Actually, that was just part of the surge strategy.  The extra troops were needed to hold areas after having them cleared, but the main part of the surge was the adoption of counterinsurgency strategies and tactics.  And, it’s worth pointing out yet again, Obama wants to do in Afghanistan exactly what he rejects in this November 2006 speech.
  • [T]here is no military solution to this war.”  No one ever claimed that the war had a purely military solution.  What war does?  The Bush administration, John McCain, and General Petraeus knew that the eventual political solution would require security and stability to implement, though, and that a retreat in the spring of 2007 — which Obama proposed in this speech — would have eliminated any hope of either security or stability.  That required a stronger ground force and smarter strategy.
  • “To reach such a solution, we must communicate clearly and effectively to the factions in Iraq that the days of asking, urging, and waiting for them to take control of their own country are coming to an end.”  This is the most absurd point of all.  The Iraqis didn’t have enough trained and seasoned security forces to bring stability.  Retreat would not have forced them to work together — it would have forced the factions to arm themselves and go to war to protect themselves.  The central government needed more time to develop the means to “take control of their own country”, and in 2008 we have seen the results.

The speech has more examples of Obama’s military genius.  As I noted above, he demanded a “phased redeployment” to begin no later than early 2007, and suggested the Murtha plan of creating an “over-the-horizon force” that would get based in Northern Iraq or elsewhere in the region.  Perhaps General Obama forgot to mention how we would maintain the lines of communication to an American force in the landlocked northern regions without maintaining bases of operation all the way from Umm Qasr through Baghdad.  He certainly didn’t specify any other options, nor how we would move this rapid-response force back into the rest of Iraq without that kind of logistical support.

Obama also insisted that the reduction be accomplished with or without the approval of the Iraqi government:

The President should announce to the Iraqi people that our policy will include a gradual and substantial reduction in U.S. forces. He should then work with our military commanders to map out the best plan for such a redeployment and determine precise levels and dates. When possible, this should be done in consultation with the Iraqi government – but it should not depend on Iraqi approval.

That’s what makes the hubbub over Maliki’s supposed agreement with Obama on timetables so laughable, even if it hadn’t been misreported.  Obama made clear in 2006 that he didn’t care whether Maliki agreed with him or not on his withdrawal plan.  And even the reduced force would not remain if Maliki and his government didn’t meet the Congressional benchmarks that later got applied, as if the American forces were a gift to the Iraqis and not there as part of our national interest in securing Iraq and providing a stable, democratic partner in the region.

This speech makes Obama’s position on the surge quite plain, and on Iraq in general.  Not only did he get it wrong, but he outlined a strategy that would have turned Iraq into a failed state and allowed terrorists to build themselves a stronghold with enough oil revenue to hold the world hostage.  He presented America with the same defeatist vision that Harry Reid and Jack Murtha tried so hard to sell, and which was proven spectacularly wrong over the next eighteen months.  And had it not been for John McCain and George Bush, Barack Obama wouldn’t have dared visit Iraq last week.


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Obama’s Nov 2006 speech wasn’t the speech he thought he knew.

lorien1973 on July 29, 2008 at 6:06 PM

Effete. Clueless. Liberal. Moron.

elduende on July 29, 2008 at 6:08 PM

Dreams of democracy and hopes for a perfect government are now just that – dreams and hopes.

What’s wrong with “hope”? Isn’t it like the basis for Obama’s campaign?

amerpundit on July 29, 2008 at 6:09 PM

Dreams and hopes of a perfect government – like when the seas stopped rising …

mikeyboss on July 29, 2008 at 6:10 PM

I can’t wait for the debates. I have a feeling Obama is going to get skewered.

Theworldisnotenough on July 29, 2008 at 6:11 PM

From my point, I was sceptical of any success since I was convinced that the Iraqi people themselves were unwilling to stand up against the extremists.

Two differences: I’m not running for President and I admit I was flat out wrong.

Which apparently makes me qualified to be Obama’s running mate.

SteveMG on July 29, 2008 at 6:12 PM

This guy has no idea what he’s doing. And he lies instead of admitting any mistakes.

Good thing there’s still 3 months left for more people to notice.

forest on July 29, 2008 at 6:12 PM

Geez, what a dumbazz.

Nice work, Ed. Thanks for putting this together.

Tony737 on July 29, 2008 at 6:14 PM

The debates will be the pivotal point in this campaign.
McCain: “My Friends, Senator Obama chose to work out at the gym rather than visit our wounded troops in Germany. (McCain looks at Obama and speaks to him directly) “Why didn’t you visit the G-d damned troops Senator!!!?!”
Obama: “eh, uh, I was…eh (pisses in pants).

carbon_footprint on July 29, 2008 at 6:14 PM

Which apparently makes me qualified to be Obama’s running mate.

Except for the admission part.

SteveMG on July 29, 2008 at 6:16 PM

Sometimes I think these guys talk so much that they forget what they have said. It is all just blah blah blah

Terrye on July 29, 2008 at 6:19 PM

Hold the phone a moment! Mr. Hopeychangeyness deriding the Power of Dreams™ in favor of “concrete objectives that are possible to attain”?!

This isn’t the Obama I thought I knew.

Citizen Duck on July 29, 2008 at 6:22 PM

Come on people, don’t you know all this purge talk is a diversion and wedge issue. ;-)

Hummer53 on July 29, 2008 at 6:24 PM

This is the speech that won him the Democrat primary? LMAO!

Chakra Hammer on July 29, 2008 at 6:27 PM

If Obama and his liberal buddies hadn’t been so equivocal early on about supporting the troops and their mission, most of the troops would already be home (victoriously) by now. The surge debate would have never even existed to bite him in the azz two years later.

Karma. Heh.

innominatus on July 29, 2008 at 6:28 PM

starting to see it all fall apart.

vinman on July 29, 2008 at 6:30 PM

Not just a Weasel-Liar, but an unintelligent W-L

he is ‘articulate’, though, in re Biden

The Dems have not had a worthwhile candidtate for Prez since JFK. Since him: LBJ, Humphrey, McGovern, Carter x 2, Mondale, Dukakis, Clinton x 2, AlGore, and Kerry

the audacity of mediocrity and hopeless Tools……..

Janos Hunyadi on July 29, 2008 at 6:30 PM

How Important Was the Surge, hallowed be it’s name? Ten Iraq experts weigh in on the effectiveness of the surge, hallowed by it’s name

Frank Rich, the American Prospect.

What’s the latest from The Nation?

Granma?

SteveMG on July 29, 2008 at 6:31 PM

Nice work Ed!

TheBigOldDog on July 29, 2008 at 6:32 PM

Not only did he get it wrong, but he outlined a strategy that would have turned Iraq into a failed state and allowed terrorists to build themselves a stronghold with enough oil revenue to hold the world hostage.

If you are referring to Sunni al-Qaeda in Iraq (aka al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, aka AQI), which have probably never numbered more than a few thousand, I think that you have vastly overestimating their abilities.

MB4 on July 29, 2008 at 6:38 PM

Great job, Ed.

Sometimes I think these guys talk so much that they forget what they have said. It is all just blah blah blah

Terrye on July 29, 2008 at 6:19 PM

Barry throws so much spaghetti at the wall it’s impossible to keep up with his positions on issues. Every day it’s some new thing, and by the time one researches what he’s said and discovers the fallacies and contradictions, he’s off to something new.

Buy Danish on July 29, 2008 at 6:38 PM

MB4 on July 29, 2008 at 6:17 PM

Haven’t followed your link yet, but I will in a sec…

Before I do, though, I’ll throw out this: the surge allowed a strategy change, so that we could hold areas once cleared. We all know that so I won’t belabor it. But the under-recognized part of the surge’s success was the psych value – it was a big FU to the insurgents and a confidence booster to the ordinary Iraqis. The Awakening, the failure of Sadr, etc… these things would have petered out or never happened at all if it looked like we were on the verge of buggin’ out. The surge was that needed indicator of our resolve.

innominatus on July 29, 2008 at 6:38 PM

If you are referring to Sunni al-Qaeda in Iraq (aka al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, aka AQI), which have probably never numbered more than a few thousand, I think that you have vastly overestimating their abilities.

MB4 on July 29, 2008 at 6:38 PM

And of course, if Iraq had become a failed state, the number of terrorists there (AQ or otherwise) would have remained static, right? And when all the Islamofascist terrorists and their sympathizers saw the opportunity to take over Iraq — with its strategic location and its oil wealth — none of them would have joined forces, because we know that never happens, right?

AZCoyote on July 29, 2008 at 6:47 PM

A successful surge was neither the hope or dream of Barack Obama…

CliffHanger on July 29, 2008 at 6:50 PM

If you are referring to Sunni al-Qaeda in Iraq (aka al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, aka AQI), which have probably never numbered more than a few thousand, I think that you have vastly overestimating their abilities.

MB4 on July 29, 2008 at 6:38 PM

R U Cereal? How many hijackers were there on 9/11? And what AZCoyote asked.

Buy Danish on July 29, 2008 at 6:50 PM

Obama

“There is no reason to believe that more of the same will
achieve these objectives in Iraq and while some have pro-
posed escalating this war by adding thousands of more
troops there is little reason to believe that this will
achieve the results either”

Very perplexing,Obama has thrown Hope and Change of Iraq
under da bus,ain’t that sumpin! :)

canopfor on July 29, 2008 at 6:53 PM

Dreams of democracy and hopes for a perfect government are now just that – dreams and hopes.

Enough of a reason to support a rookie liberal dove for POTUS, a man who hasnt one important accomplishment to his name, but apparently not enough to support the possibility of turning Iraq from Zero to Hero.

Yeah, OK. Stay classy, Senator.

Mike D. on July 29, 2008 at 6:55 PM

Obama’s Nov 2006 speech wasn’t the speech he thought he knew.

lorien1973 on July 29, 2008 at 6:06 PM

Replaying this old speech isn’t doing his children any good.

Frozen Tex on July 29, 2008 at 7:02 PM

Excellent post, Ed. One quibble:

And had it not been for John McCain and George Bush, Barack Obama wouldn’t have dared visit Iraq last week.

This is a sore spot with me. I think the proper order of credit due should be GEN Petraeus, President George W. Bush and then John McCain. All McCain did was support GEN Petraeus and President Bush. He never proposed COIN strategy, only “more troops”. As most people know who have followed the war effort, “more troops” was not the answer. Proper allocation of those troops using the proper strategy (COIN) *was* the answer.

I am fed up with John McCain taking all the credit for the ‘surge’ when he did nothing, but support it. It took the strategic genius of GEN Petraeus (learned from experience over the course of the first few years of the war effort in Iraq) and the leadership of President Bush in the face of extreme criticism from his enemies as well as massive pessimism from his supporters in order to succeed in Iraq.

Let’s give proper credit where it is due: (1) GEN Petraeus (2) President Bush, (3) John McCain in a support role.

Otherwise, this is an excellent post. But speaking of pessimism, I don’t have much faith in the American public to even care about these details about Obama. I believe we have became an American Idol society and a ‘style over substance’ society and Obama will win in November.

I hope I am wrong and this info that you and others in the blogosphere somehow breaks through the ignorance and stupidity of the electorate.

Michael in MI on July 29, 2008 at 7:06 PM

So Obama is a feckless pathological liar. Didn’t seem to hurt Clinton, either.

John the Libertarian on July 29, 2008 at 7:14 PM

William Amos,

It looks like the link to your page up in the original post isn’t working anymore. Did traffic put your blog out of action, or could there be a problem with the link?

forest on July 29, 2008 at 7:15 PM

So Obama is a feckless pathological liar. Didn’t seem to hurt Clinton, either.

John the Libertarian on July 29, 2008 at 7:14 PM

Exactly. The American public is quite alright with a liar, so long as the liar is someone they like.

This is why I believe Obama will win. The American public will forgive him of all his lies (or won’t even realize they are lies, or agree with his lies) and vote for him anyway, because he’s the Obamessiah.

I really think that most pundits think too highly of the intelligence and common sense of the current American public. If the American public were so intelligent, we would not have Obama and McCain from which to choose for President. And as AllahPundit has stated, if Obama is so pathetic a candidate, why is McCain losing to him.

I’m preparing for the worst come November.

Michael in MI on July 29, 2008 at 7:17 PM

testing

Charles Martel on July 29, 2008 at 7:18 PM

I’m preparing for the worst come November.

Michael in MI on July 29, 2008 at 7:17 PM

Would that mean you plan to be bitter and clingy?

Frozen Tex on July 29, 2008 at 7:19 PM

William Amos,

It looks like the link to your page up in the original post isn’t working anymore. Did traffic put your blog out of action, or could there be a problem with the link?

forest on July 29, 2008 at 7:15 PM

Been having lots of problems directly linking to posts on my blog. I can however send you directly to the blog home page.

My blog here

William Amos on July 29, 2008 at 7:21 PM

BTW make sure to catch Obama saying in that second video “The days of using slogans and words as policy on Iraq are over”

Dont tell me words dont matter Obama !

William Amos on July 29, 2008 at 7:30 PM

Some quotes

A few Tuesdays ago, the American people embraced this seriousness with regards to America’s policy in Iraq. Americans were originally persuaded by the President to go to war in part because of the threat of weapons of mass destruction, and in part because they were told that it would help reduce the threat of international terrorism.

Neither turned out to be true. And now, after three long years of watching the same back and forth in Washington, the American people have sent a clear message that the days of using the war on terror as a political football are over. That policy-by-slogan will no longer pass as an acceptable form of debate in this country. “Mission Accomplished,” “cut and run,” “stay the course” – the American people have determined that all these phrases have become meaningless in the face of a conflict that grows more deadly and chaotic with each passing day – a conflict that has only increased the terrorist threat it was supposed to help contain.

But it will not be easy. For the fact is that there are no good options left in this war. There are no options that do not carry significant risks. And so the question is not whether there is some magic formula for success, or guarantee against failure, in Iraq. Rather, the question is what strategies, imperfect though they may be, are most likely to achieve the best outcome in Iraq, one that will ultimately put us on a more effective course to deal with international terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and other critical threats to our security.

William Amos on July 29, 2008 at 7:32 PM

Dreams and hopes are great for Barry O, but not for the Iraqi people.

Who gave THEM the hope for personal security and a stable government? Not the audacious hope-monger, but General Petraeus and his men. Now THAT’s change we can believe in.

Steve Z on July 29, 2008 at 7:38 PM

I had to break up the video because youtube wouldnt allow more than 10 minutes at a time (Is almost and hour speech)

Missed this gem but just posted it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgXjWk3Y8Bo

The first is that we should be more modest in our belief that we can impose democracy on a country through military force. In the past, it has been movements for freedom from within tyrannical regimes that have led to flourishing democracies; movements that continue today. This doesn’t mean abandoning our values and ideals; wherever we can, it’s in our interest to help foster democracy through the diplomatic and economic resources at our disposal. But even as we provide such help, we should be clear that the institutions of democracy – free markets, a free press, a strong civil society – cannot be built overnight, and they cannot be built at the end of a barrel of a gun. And so we must realize that the freedoms FDR once spoke of – especially freedom from want and freedom from fear – do not just come from deposing a tyrant and handing out ballots; they are only realized once the personal and material security of a people is ensured as well.

William Amos on July 29, 2008 at 7:49 PM

The Democratic meme in 2004 was “Bush was too stubborn.” He wouldn’t admit mistakes.

Now it looks as if they have launched stubbornzilla, a candidate who will not admit to even obvious blunders.

Dr. Charles G. Waugh on July 29, 2008 at 8:12 PM

Meanwhile, check this out; Brack HUSSEIN Obama (PBUH)(SAW)(SWT) is going for “reparations”; I KNEW that would happen!

If McCain and the RNC can take advantage of this, it would be HUGE!

I consistently believe that when it comes to whether it’s Native Americans or African-American issues or reparations, the most important thing for the U.S. government to do is not just offer words, but offer deeds.”

Dale in Atlanta on July 29, 2008 at 8:12 PM

I don’t see what’s new here. He’s already been busted for this nonsense repeatedly. I’m not saying to stop piling on, just stating that my take-away from this clip was something more humourous…

Dreams of democracy and hopes for a perfect government are now just that – dreams and hopes.

Why is he knocking “hope”? Other than “Change”, isn’t “Hope” the reason he wants us to vote for him? Setting aside the emptiness of his entire campaign and slogans for a moment… just think about that. He’s blasting “hope”, but he’s f-ing Mr. Hope. He wrote a book called “The Audacity of Hope”. Where did your audacity go brotha? To take it a step further, he knocked “Dreams” in that same sentence. Remember the title of his other book? “Dreams of my father”. What a dumbass.

RightWinged on July 29, 2008 at 8:46 PM

…. and I thought John F. Kerry was bad !!!

aniladesai on July 29, 2008 at 8:53 PM

How Important Was the Surge, hallowed be it’s name? Ten Iraq experts weigh in on the effectiveness of the surge, hallowed by it’s name

MB4 on July 29, 2008 at 6:17 PM

Read it. Clearly the surge was a spectacular success. The only disagreements are quibbles.

jl on July 29, 2008 at 9:25 PM

Obama’s a realist in foreign policy when it comes to Iraq and an idealist when it comes to everywhere else.

Apparently Obama thinks we can break the walls down everywhere in the world – we can repair the world and makes the waters recede – as long as part of that world doesn’t include Iraq.

The only possible explanation for this blatant inconsistency is US electoral politics. The Left wanted (and wants) us to abandon Iraq and Obama needed – and needs – their support.

SteveMG on July 29, 2008 at 9:27 PM

Obama’s plan for withdrawal makes complete sense if you were to rely on his total misunderstanding of the situation in Iraq in 2006. I don’t fault his decision-making, i.e., his judgment. Rather, it is his lack of knowledge and experience that cause him to reach the wrong conclusions.

Now that he is finally correct in the narrow sense that it is appropriate to continue to withdraw our forces from Iraq, Obama would have us believe that he was right all along.

Simple McCain ad: “Even a broken clock is right twice a day.”

free-thinker on July 29, 2008 at 9:49 PM

He can’t say sh*t without reading it. Still can’t.

And yes, dead wrong when it matters

drjohn on July 29, 2008 at 10:27 PM

Obama on the surge, November 2006: No Hope for the Iraqis

ObamaFuhrer is the typical running scared Democrat, that doesn’t know when to stick it in, or when to pull it out! /Sarcasm

byteshredder on July 29, 2008 at 10:43 PM

R U Cereal? How many hijackers were there on 9/11? And what AZCoyote asked.

Buy Danish on July 29, 2008 at 6:50 PM

If memory serves, it was 19 who came to the U.S. on visas mainly. I believe that 14 were from our President’s “dear friend” Saudi Arabia.

MB4 on July 29, 2008 at 11:28 PM

Read it. Clearly the surge was a spectacular success. The only disagreements are quibbles.

jl on July 29, 2008 at 9:25 PM

You must have been wearing special glasses when you read it.

MB4 on July 29, 2008 at 11:30 PM

If you are referring to Sunni al-Qaeda in Iraq (aka al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, aka AQI), which have probably never numbered more than a few thousand, I think that you have vastly overestimating their abilities.

MB4 on July 29, 2008 at 6:38 PM

My God! MB4, give it up already.

If the AQ numbered only a few thousand, Obama and the whole Democrats/liberals did not think US forces (with allies) can defeat a few thousands? What are they (i.e., AQ), superman each and every one of them?

Methinks you have vastly UNDER-estimated our ability.

Sir Napsalot on July 30, 2008 at 12:15 PM

How Important Was the Surge, hallowed be it’s name? Ten Iraq experts weigh in on the effectiveness of the surge, hallowed by it’s name

MB4 on July 29, 2008 at 6:17 PM

The header on that page says “Liberal Intelligence”. That’s as far as I was able to read before I broke out laughing. The Surge worked beautifully and was absolutely necessary, no matter what some liberals might say.

Theophile on July 30, 2008 at 2:09 PM

Obama-the crown prince of Bush Derangement Syndrome and chief spokesman, er, token…………..

adamsmith on July 30, 2008 at 3:25 PM