President Barack Obama took some tough questions from a betrayed Mika Brzezinski in an interview broadcast Monday morning.
The president began by defending his decision to withdraw entirely from Iraq – a move he said was not his decision but Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s as recently as Friday. “Unless we are prepared to stay indefinitely in all these various countries, something that we can’t afford and would involve over time accusations that we were occupying these countries, at some stage they’re going to have to take responsibility for working together,” the president said.
The president arguing fiscal responsibility in this case is dubious considering that America’s financial restraints only seem to enter into his calculation when they are associated with issues of national security. Nevertheless, as expensive as a permanent force in Iraq and Afghanistan might have been, it is also a strategic necessity and should have been perused as an imperative. America maintains residual post-war forces in South Korea, Japan, Germany, and the Balkans – forces which were also accused of being armies of occupation. For past commanders-in-chief, that charge never seemed to carry much weight.
The MSNBC host then asked the president why virtually all of the promises and pronouncements he made regarding his administration’s success in prosecuting the war on terror and eliminating the threat posed by al-Qaeda and insurgent forces in Iraq are proving to be wrong.
“You said that the war was ended in Iraq,” she said. “You said al-Qaeda was decimated. You said it was stable.”
“It was,” Obama replied. “But just because something is stable two years ago or four years ago doesn’t mean that it’s stable right now.”
Finally, Brzezinski asked the obvious question. Given what you know now about the crisis in Iraq, she probed, should you have moved faster to contain the Syrian civil war? To this, an inquiry which has been asked countless times by figures both hostile and friendly to the Obama White House, the president reverted to his comfort zone: attacking straw men.
“If what you’re suggesting is that there was a simple solution in Syria that would have avoided the civil war and chaos there,” Obama replied (she wasn’t), “that’s just not true.”
It is a wonder that Brzezinski did not bristle with offense after having had her question avoided and words put in her mouth, but she apparently found this response credible.
Finally, Obama insisted that his administration cannot play “whack-a-mole” when it comes to terrorist threats to the United States. This is simply preposterous. Not only has the administration been doing just that for the past five years – it is the very essence of his approach to the war on terror – but it is the foundation of the preemptive strike doctrine which both Bush and Obama have pursued. What the president means is that it is too politically toxic to whack this mole in particular.
This incoherent interview on the subject of Iraq is disconcerting. It revealed that the president continues to view this national security threat as a political conundrum.