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Krauthammer on Obama and Maliki

Maliki’s virtual endorsement has made it more likely that Obama will win the election. So Barack owes him. That means President Obama is likely not to ask much from Iraq. It’s possible that the surge’s success has made Maliki way overconfident about being able to go it alone now, and Charles seems somewhat bitter about his ingratitude. I think there’s more room than Charles thinks for McCain to use these facts to his advantage, although not simply by urging Obama, the American people, and the Iraqis themselves to be more grateful for the surge. And I have to add, at the urging of several threaders, that, although it makes good sense that Obama would get a bump from "winning the Iraq primary," there’s no evidence of it yet.

Discussions - 10 Comments

A lot of this depends upon how insanely contrarian you want to be, but on one of my levels in this direction I predict that Obama should take a hit from the media saying that he won the Iraq primary. On this level of contrariness McCain already has a sort of buffer in american sensibility that says that he is stronger on national defense and therefore anything that goes counter to this story is indication that the media is biased towards Obama. In this contrarian view the american people already have a general feel for the candidates that will override any "spin" that contradicts it and cause an equal and opposite reaction to the intended message. In my simplistic model, I break it down as follows: Republicans-self-explanatory. Democrats-self-explanatory. Independents-those who will be pulled back and forth only in so far as the proffered narrative coheres with what they are inclined to think. It is after all from the independents that one would expect a bounce...but one would be foolish to expect a bounce if such a bounce did not cohere with the general framework of independent belief, rather non-coherentist messages unless strong enough to overwhelm and reorient all previous belief networks, are likely to produce a reaction, as independents side with republicans in agreeing that McCain is getting shorted or with democrats in agreeing that Obama is being unfairly demonized.

Also note that my contrarian view at the time assumes that independents aren't playing close attention(and are highly unlikely to ever do so to the satisfaction of political buffs.)but are reacting off the cuff to comments made by friends on both sides of the divide.

Maliki is just being a practical opportunist. No one should be surprised at that. We are dealing with the Middle East....

Here Frank Warner gives a potential explanation for the missing bump:

It could be the case that Obama's efforts to "credentialize" himself seem inauthentic and transparent because they end up highlighting just how un-presidential and credential free he reslly is.....

Ken, of course you're right, which is why we shouldn't whine. And Ivan, glad you're reading Frank. I will try and post...

I think that people are looking at Obama's trip on too short a time horizon. Its not that people in August will see him meet world leaders and conclude that they now support him. Its that the fifteen or so percent who are uncommited will get the impression that Obama is credible as American leader to the world. That won't pay dividends right away, but in late October, when voters are weighing Omama and McCain, Obama won't seem too unqualified for the job. A smart choice of VP would help too.

And on Maliki. Given the circumstances of his life and society, if he was not an oppurtunist, he would now be either dead, marginal, or an exile. The man has probably had to be unsentimental about alot more than John McCain. Its not noble, but its not exactly cheap politcal backstabbing. Its high stakes political backstabbing. Any analysis of Maliki should take into account that Maliki has more skin in the game that Obama or McCain. And I know that McCain has a son in Iraq, but the destiny of Maliki's whole family is wrapped up in how the Iraq war goes.

Maliki did not endorse Obama’s 16-month withdrawal plan, and even Krauthammer seems to argue against his own point:

“Maliki’s very confidence allows him to set out a rapid timetable for U.S. withdrawal, albeit conditioned on continuing improvement in the security situation -- a caveat Obama generally omits. But Maliki calculates that no U.S. president, whatever his campaign promises, would be insane enough to lose Iraq after all that has been gained and then be saddled with a newly chaotic Iraq that would poison his presidency.”

I’m actually considering voting for Obama, but holy cow, that vote would have almost nothing to do with Iraq. Obama’s first pull-out plan was to have all troops out by three months ago, even in the face of genocide. Now his official plan is to have all troops out by May 20, 2010, and if you listen to the Democratic zealots, that’s May 20, 2010, no extensions, even if Iran is invading with Moktada al-Sadr at the lead.

But even before Obama left Iraq, Maliki’s spokesman was saying his hope was that all U.S. combat troops would be withdrawn “by the end of 2010,” and still, that would depend on actual security conditions in Iraq.

So Obama’s plan is 16 months, no turning back.

Maliki’s plan is 23 months, or maybe longer if the violence takes another upturn.

Those are two different plans. (In fact, Maliki’s plan is John McCain’s plan, except that McCain would leave Iraq even earlier if conditions permitted.)

If you don’t believe the Obama and Maliki plans are different, just imagine Barack Obama telling the Democratic National Convention next month that his 16-month plan really is at least 23 months. Would you expect applause?

Where Krauthammer is right, and he often is, is that Maliki sees his army growing, and he doesn’t believe any U.S. president would abandon a victory practically won. And, we forget too often, during the current talks on a new agreement covering U.S. forces in Iraq after 2008, Maliki has to pander to the Sadrists by looking like he has no use for the Americans.

After meeting with Maliki, Obama made a major concession. He said he would not be “rigid” in applying his withdrawal plan. Just a few weeks ago, Democratic activists jumped all over Obama when he suggested his Iraq plan might be “revised.”

Now 16 months-fixed equals 23 months-plus, and the Democrats are turning a blind eye to Obama's total revision. Finally, the Democrats would rather win a war than lose an election.

Peter, you really think the American people give two damns what some flunky in Iraq thinks? And care so much as to allow his judgement to inform their voting decisions.

I'd bet you 50 bucks that 60 percent of the American people couldn't identify a picture of Maliki, OR if asked who Maliki was, couldn't accurately identify what position he holds.

Great point by Mr. Warner about the differences between Maliki and Obama. But wasn't Maliki's assist a way to coopt a future President Obama? Obama gets a little good publicity and Obama gets to point to Maliki's statement to show that Obama's plan is reasonable. In return, Maliki can hope that a grateful President Obama will show more flexibility in the redeployment of American troops.

One note of caution. The number of American troops is not the only factor that transformed American strategy. It was also the deploying of American troops out of large bases so as to be more effective counterinsurgents. President Obama could reverse this policy (for reasons of force protection or whatever). This could greatly reduce the effectiveness of the American effort without a sudden drawdown of troops. There has been a large quantity of good news out of Iraq, but the war can still be lost and there is more than one way to lose it.

Pete, yes, I think Maliki did co-opt the support of a future President Obama, and that probably is good for Iraq. Things just worked out that way.

But I have to say again: Maliki never endorsed Obama's "plan." He said Obama's 16-month withdrawal schedule "could be suitable." Or not.

Maliki did not agree to a May 20, 2010, pull-out date, and he did not agree to any pull-out date that could not change.

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