Sunday, July 27, 2008

What Did Obama Learn in Iraq?

During the run-up to the war in Iraq, Barack Obama was a part-time Illinois state legislator who made a speech opposing the US invasion at an anti-war rally. Throughout the Democratic primary, Obama repeatedly proclaimed his good judgment in opposing the war from the beginning, but not once have I ever heard him mention he was not a member of the US Senate at the time the resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq was passed. As a result, thousands of Americans no doubt continue to believe that Obama actually voted against the Iraq War resolution.

Few question any longer that the male dominated media (97% males in decision-making roles) favored Obama versus Clinton in the primary. So I was surprised this morning to read John Dickerson’s article in Slate titled What Did Obama Learn in Iraq? The senator hasn't shown us much yet. In reviewing the history of Obama’s position on the Iraq War, Dickerson, Slate’s chief political correspondent, actually provides the complete facts before discussing Obama’s take on the results of the surge.

Dickerson contends:

“These are not academic questions. Some people would say the vote on the surge was one of Obama's most important as a senator. As Obama pointed out regularly during the Democratic primaries with Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, both of whom voted to authorize the Iraq war, a person's past vote tells you something about his or her judgment. Obama has talked a lot about the clarity of his judgment in opposing the Iraq war. He also once suggested that if he'd been forced to cast an actual vote for or against the Iraq war as a senator, his view might have been complicated. On the surge, we get a chance to watch Obama grapple with similar complexities in real time. Or, at least, we should.”

Dickerson reports:

“Before Obama flew to Baghdad, I asked his top foreign-policy adviser, Susan Rice, what kinds of questions he'd asked of his advisers over the months to test whether his Iraq withdrawal plan still matched the realities on the ground in Iraq. Rice gave me no examples. And now that the trip is over, we have no better sense of how Sen. Obama thinks about Iraq. It's not that I expect grand revelations. But Obama still holds the same policy views he did more than a year and a half ago, even though a lot has changed since then in Iraq, and a lot of those events appear to contradict his earlier views. We know that Obama hasn't moved, but we don't know, really, why that's so.”

To read more of Dickerson’s thoughtful analysis of Obama’s current position on the Iraq War, go here.

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