Campaigns are when some crazy things are said -- particularly during primaries. In an effort to one-up opponents and please the party base, candidates will inevitably make some outlandish claims.
However, when it comes to the drawdown in Iraq, the Republican candidates for president have gone from outlandish to ignorant and irresponsible. If any of them actually believes what they've said, they should immediately be disqualified from being commander-in-chief.
Let's take them a few at a time.
"President Obama's astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women. The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government. The American people deserve to hear the recommendations that were made by our military commanders in Iraq."
"I'm deeply concerned that President Obama is putting political expediency ahead of sound military and security judgment by announcing an end to troop level negotiations and a withdrawal from Iraq by year's end. The President was slow to engage the Iraqis and there's little evidence today's decision is based on advice from military commanders."
Rick Perry and Mitt Romney seem to take the position that withdrawal is a diplomatic failure that contradicts the advice of military commanders. As an aside, neither Romney nor Perry have offered any evidence that our military commanders want an indefinite presence in Iraq.
More importantly, in our constitutional government, we have a civilian commander in chief, who shouldn't hide behind military commanders when making strategic decisions regarding the use of our armed forces. Military leaders must give their best recommendations to their president. Very often, those military leaders have differing opinions. Real leadership involves not blindly following the most hawkish advice from some military leaders, but rather making tough decisions that weigh military opinion alongside diplomatic concerns, budgetary constraints, domestic needs, and national priorities. That's exactly what President Obama did.
More troubling is that Perry and Romney feel that the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq after 8 years is some kind of failure in diplomacy and negotiation. In fact, the current withdrawal is the result of negotiation from the previous administration. The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) which mandated the end of 2011 as the deadline for all troops to leave Iraq, was negotiated by President George W. Bush -- not President Obama. President Obama merely saw that the U.S. kept its word. If Perry and Romney feel that it was a weak agreement, they have an issue with the last President, not this one.
But, if they honestly believe that the removal of troops was negotiated by this President, then they are completely ignorant about the United States' dealings with Iraq, which would worry me, should either of them become commander-in-chief. NEWT GINGRICH:
"The president has announced what will be seen by historians as a decisive defeat for the U.S. in Iraq. ... After eight years, thousands of lives, hundreds of billions of dollars, we will leave in defeat. Don't kid yourself, it is defeat. Iran is stronger."
"We have a President that was not able to set conditions and to actually have the kind of influence over the Iraqi government. Now three years the President has had to- to work with the Iraqi government to try to mold and shape that relationship. And to be in a position where really the Iranians now have more sway over the Iraqi government than the United States just shows the weakness of our- our diplomatic effort, the weakness of this President, in being able to shape the battlefield if you will. And I think that's the reason people were so upset that, you know, we've lost- in many respects we've lost control and lost the war in Iraq, because we have Iran having broadened its sphere of influence."
Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum both oppose the withdrawal of troops because of a fear that the Iranians wield greater influence in post-Saddam Iraq. I have a news flash for them: That has been true for years, even when we surged in Iraq. It isn't a product of President Obama, and it isn't a result of the withdrawal. It's the result of the war itself. What Gingrich and Santorum don't seem to understand is that Iraq is a majority Shiite country, like Iran. Saddam, a Sunni, was a dictator in the minority. For years, VoteVets.org has maintained that while Saddam was a brutal dictator, he was a backstop against the Iranians, and that his removal from power itself opened up the opportunity for Iran to exercise influence in Iraq once a Shia majority government was inevitably elected. It's not a surprise that in post-Saddam Iraq, arguably one of the most powerful people in Iraq is Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia Islam cleric with ties to Iran. Sadr has shown the ability to cause mass destruction and violence whenever he wants. If Gingrich and Santorum have a problem with Iranian influence in Iraq, they should direct their complaints to President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Secretary Rumsfeld. If they seriously believe that Iranian influence in Iraq has anything to do with President Obama, then they are woefully ill-informed about that region of the world, and Americans should not have confidence in them as commander-in-chief. MICHELE BACHMANN:
"And while we're on the way out, we're being kicked out by the very people that we liberated... And to think that we are so disrespected and they -- they have so little fear of the United States that there would be nothing that we would gain from this."
I was going to group Bachmann in with the Perry and Romney group, since she also seems to have no grasp of what the SOFA is, or who negotiated it. But I pulled her comments out separately, because they are so extreme. Her big beef with President Obama is that he hasn't made the Iraqis "fear us." Presumably, she believes that the job of the president is to scare people into becoming our allies, with the threat of military force. I can't think of one example in history where nations allied in a strong partnership between its respective people because one nation simply feared another. In fact, I can only think of times when fear has led to war. Fear, in this case, does play a role, however. This worldview Michele Bachmann has is so categorically dangerous to United States security that every single person in America should fear her as commander-in-chief. HERMAN CAIN:
"I can't for the life of me understand why you'd tell the enemy what you're going to do and when you're going to do it. That's just not common sense, I'm sorry."
Like Bachmann, I could have lumped Herman Cain's statement into the section with Perry and Romney, but this stands out on its own for its sheer stupidity.
Is this quote from 2008? Because, SOFA has been on the books for three years. That's when we "told the enemy" when we were going to leave. More specifically, George W. Bush did. Either Cain has been asleep or hasn't read a newspaper in the past three years. In either case, he is absolutely not ready to be commander-in-chief. That Cain believes that this is the first Iraqis have heard about our plans to leave Iraq is just one more in a long line of bafflingly unaware statements from him.