Korobov: Obama’s evolving Iraq approach


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Americans’ outlook on the war in Iraq has been quite a roller-coaster ride. In May 2003, a Gallup poll found that 79 percent of responders believed that the war did indeed have justification. After several years, however, the American people grew disillusioned. By December 2008, ABC News and the Washington Post found that 64 percent did not believe the war was worth fighting.

Regardless for the reason in this shift in public perception, President Obama certainly did not let the Iraq War’s unpopularity go to waste.

In October 2007, candidate Barack Obama made a promise: “If we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am president, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home.” In reality, bringing back more than 100,000 troops turned out to be quite difficult, and the mission did not come to fruition until December 2011. In the 2012 election, Obama made the Iraq War a focal point in his re-election campaign, boasting, “I said I’d end the war in Iraq. I ended it.” 

Many experts, particularly on the right, criticized the withdrawal plan. They argued that the Iraqi government was not yet strong enough to remain independent. Sen. John McCain had warned that “it will have serious negative consequences for the stability of Iraq and the national security interests of the United States.”

As many Sunni areas of Iraq have been forced to surrender to ISIS, it has become clear that the Iraqi government is struggling to control the situation. In June, ISIS took over Mosul, a heavily populated city in northern Iraq. Every week, we hear of more violence in Iraq; nine journalists were allegedly murdered last week in Mosul.

Still, despite this insurrection, Obama’s response to the rise of ISIS in Iraq stayed true to his past message. He promised that this effort “will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil.” This was announced just a couple months ago, in September.

Last week, we learned that Obama has signed authorization for the deployment of 1,500 troops in to Iraq’s Anbar province. The troops are there to assist Iraqi forces in fighting ISIS. As can be expected, Obama’s rhetoric has changed. He now says, “I’m never going to say never” to the prospect of more troops in Iraq.

How do you tell a president “told you so”?

Obama maintains that these soldiers are stationed for the sole purpose of providing some training and advice for the Iraqi soldiers. With more than 3,000 troops in Iraq, though, the claim is a bit comical. Jon Stewart, far from an Obama-basher, joked on his show the number of American troops in Iraq makes for “a lot of advice.”

Americans are generally sick and tired of long-term foreign intervention, yet the instability that is unfortunately so common in the Middle East often triggers us coming back to prevent more violence. It’s a difficult game of cat and mouse with no clear resolution.

It is the president’s inability to address the situation honestly over the course of his presidency that is the cause of frustration. If the president expects his approval numbers to increase in his last two years, he must stop using political rhetoric and be truthful to the American people.

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