I’m not going to critique the Israel, Jordan, and Europe legs of Obama’s trip, simply because I don’t have the intimate knowledge of those areas that I have of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Once again, I’ll give the Senator credit for his conduct these past few days. He did his listening without trying to impose his plans on foreign governments or military leaders. In 2000, I was in a military audience for an Al Gore appearance. He spent most of his time telling us how he wanted to give us a pay raise, better housing, etc. A campaign speech, basically. Senator Obama didn’t do this either. I didn’t hear him speak, but according to the first-hand accounts I’ve heard, he kept his comments to thanking the military and giving us credit for all the progress that’s been made.
While I have no complaints about his trip, I do have some issues with his conduct leading up to and right after it.
First, why did it take him almost 3 years to visit again? Why only the second time? I would think such an outspoken critic of our involvement in Iraq would be doing this more often. Especially since he claims to support the troops so much. When was the last time he spoke with General Petraeus? When was the last time he discussed the progress over here with any military leader at all? His opposition to what’s left of this war has been strictly for political leverage. He can say he’s always opposed it, while Senator Clinton and Senator McCain can’t. Beyond that he doesn’t care. I doubt he would have made this trip had not Senator McCain called him on his perceived lack of interest.
Second, as I said before, his past comments criticizing the Afghan and Iraqi governments were not constructive. He is not the State Department. He is a legislator. His comments risk souring the relationship we have with these countries, who are already fragile allies in the War on Terror.
Third, I appreciate the Senator’s willingness to slightly back off his “16 months” timeline. A “residual force” is a step up from a complete withdrawal. However, I would have gained a lot more respect for the man if he had been big enough to admit he had been wrong about the surge. I caught the clip on the TV where he admitted to Katie Couric that the surge had worked, and then proceeded to say he still wouldn’t have supported it if he had known then what he knows now. What? What did he want? More of what we had here before the surge? More chaos? More sectarian violence? More terrorism? More dead Americans? More dead Iraqis? Straight up defeat?