Barack Obama’s national security judgement flawed

Published 1:52 am Monday, April 14, 2008

By By Tray Smith
Barack Obama, lacking an extensive foreign policy resume, asks voters to evaluate his national security credentials on his judgment capabilities, not his experience.
As validation for his claim to having judgment superior to either of his rivals, Obama cites a speech he delivered in 2002 warning against the soon to come war in Iraq. At that time, Obama was a legislator in the Illinois State Senate, unable to vote on legislation that gave President Bush authority to use military force against Saddam Hussein’s regime. However, his two main Presidential rivals, Hillary Clinton and John McCain, were both members of the U.S. Senate, and both voted in favor of the authorization.
Over the past five years, the war in Iraq has devolved from the extraordinary successful invasion into a tragic civil war, and evolved from civil war into a fragile peace. The history of our military intervention consists of several complexities, which mirror broader debates about national security policy.
Those debates are primarily concerned with the tasks information age technology can realistically perform in warfare, the risk the U.S. assumes when it conducts nation building exercises, and the appropriate number of forces needed for the military. Answering those questions will be crucial to the successful execution of future military interventions, which will likely imitate the situation in Iraq.
The important decision for Americans, as they decide who to elect as their next commander-in-chief, is not which candidate had the best judgment about whether or not we should have invaded Iraq. It is which candidate had the best judgment about U.S. military strategy in Iraq.
President Bush’s successor will not be able to change President Bush’s decision to go to war. However, he or she will be the commander-in-chief during future conflicts. It is important that he or she have the judgment to implement a successful strategy in those wars.
On issues of strategy, according to Obama’s own standard, his judgment has been flawed. When U.S. General David Petraeus, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, testified before members of the Senate at hearings last week, Obama acknowledged that “the surge has reduced violence and created breathing room." That is a contradiction to his 2007 prediction that the surge would fail.
According to Obama’s statement this year, his prediction last year was incorrect. Since President Bush sent reinforcements into the battlefield in Iraq, violence between Iraqis and against Americans is down. While Democrats continue to insist that political reconciliation is the only way to solve the conflict they say cannot be resolved “militarily,” it is important to recognize that the Iraqi Parliament accomplished more last year than the Democratic Congress. They passed laws reforming pensions, easing de- Baathification efforts against Iraqis active in Saddam Hussein’s regime and addressing provincial powers. At the tribal level, warring sects have reconciled and many are now cooperating with U.S. troops. Oil revenues are being shared. Twelve of the 18 benchmarks Congress established for the Iraqi government have been met. Provincial elections will be held this October. This reconciliation has been achieved as a result of the relative peace established by President Bush’s surge. The surge Senator Obama predicted would fail.
Tray Smith is a political columnist for the Atmore Advance. He is a student at Escambia County High School and can be reached at tsmith_90@

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