Over at Passport, Blake Hounshell is asking if Obama has an Iraq problem. I’m not quite sure how a policy of withdrawal from Iraq would be a harder sell if it turns out the surge is rousing success:
It’s possible the war staying out of the news will only help focus the race on the economy, where the Democrats have an advantage. But I can see it cutting both ways. At the very least, it will be awkward for Obama to pivot from saying, “the war is lost, let’s get out” to “the war is won, let’s go home.”
First, I haven’t heard any message that equals “the war is lost”. The central message of the withdrawal plan has been the logic of disengaging to allow Iraqi elected officials to make the necessary political decisions. It’s not that we’ve lost Iraq, but that we can’t build the kind of Iraq we’d like (or, more importantly, the Iraqi’s would want and deserve) through a military solution alone.
As Fareed Zakaria put it, we’re stuck in the “Iraq loop”. If the surge is a success we can begin disengaging, but when violence flairs up, we redouble our commitment in order to give Iraqis a chance to strike some sort of political accord that will quell the sectarian fighting. Whether it’s an upturn or downturn in violence, there’s still the need for the political compromises to build a lasting government and peace. I don’t see how saying “well things are working out, now we can go” has a different political consequence from “if we don’t leave, things won’t work themselves out”.