Jeff Jacoby detected a mighty spin coming from Barack Obama’s attempt to define his doctrine on interventionism in last night’s debate. In Nashville, Obama said that the American military must stand ready to stop genocide whenever and wherever it occurs. However, Obama seemed to have little concern last year to the genocide that would have resulted from a precipitous pre-surge withdrawal from Iraq:
Though most of the debate dealt with domestic issues, it was a foreign-policy question that sent me flying to my files. Moderator Tom Brokaw asked the candidates what their “doctrine” would be “in situations where there’s a humanitarian crisis, but it does not affect our national security,” such as “the Congo, where 4.5 million people have died since 1998,” or Rwanda or Somalia.
In such cases, answered Obama, “we have moral issues at stake.” Of course the United States must act to stop genocide, he said. “When genocide is happening, when ethnic cleansing is happening . . . and we stand idly by, that diminishes us.”
But that wasn’t how Obama sounded last year, when he was competing for the Democratic nomination and was unbending in his demand for an American retreat from Iraq. Back then, he dismissed fears that a US’t a good enough reason to keep US forces there,” the AP reported on July 20, 2007 (my italics). withdrawal would unleash a massive Iraqi bloodbath. “Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Thursday the United States cannot use its military to solve humanitarian problems and that preventing a potential genocide in Iraq isn’t a good enough reason to keep US forces there,” the AP reported on July 20, 2007 (my italics).
What kind of candidate is it whose moral response to genocide – genocide – can reverse itself 180 degrees in a matter of months? Is that the kind of candidate who ought to be the leader of the free world?
Obama’s answer also ignored the multiple genocides of the Saddam Hussein regime. We knew well before our entry into Iraq that Saddam had conducted genocides against the Kurds. He used the chemical weapons that people now claim he didn’t have at Halabja, for which he and his henchmen deservedly received the death penalty (although Saddam had already been executed by then). He also conducted a genocidal campaign against the Marsh Arabs, draining their wetlands and leaving them to die for their opposition to his regime. Saddam persecuted the Shi’ites after an uprising in 1991, one that continued in defiance of the no-fly zones — the same tactic Obama recommended as a stop against genocide in Sudan and elsewhere.
Now Obama says that American intervention in Iraq was the wrong move, but in an Obama Doctrine, that would have been an acceptable response. Saddam was a genocidal tyrant, and no one else in the region was going to act to stop him. The only difference here is the political juice Obama gets for opposing the Iraq war.
And, as Jacoby points out, Obama can’t even be consistent. He decries genocide and pledges American intervention to stop it, but earlier said that potential genocide wouldn’t be enough reason to keep American troops in place. Huh? Either Obama is confused, or he only cares about genocides when it doesn’t involve Iraqis.