You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Obama Reconsiders Iraq

The New Yorker's George Packer says Obama will have to retool his Iraq-withdrawal position to reflect improved conditions on the ground. Republicans are gleefully mailing this around today, apparently in anticipation of another Obama "flip-flop."

But speaking in pure political terms for a moment, maybe this is a blessing for Obama. His hard line on Iraq--featuring a 16-month target for withdrawal of all combat troops-- was a powerful weapon in the Democratic primaries against Hillary Clinton, who never suggested a withdrawal timeline, either because she has "the responsibility gene," as she once put it, or because she feared moving too far to the left before a general election.

Polls show often contradictory views among voters about what to do in Iraq. Certainly lots of people want to leave soon. But Obama's 16-month line was always close to the edge, and probably not ideal for a general election. The substantial drop in violence actually gives Obama an excuse to reposition himself without appearing too shamelessly political. He can now go to Iraq and declare that this change in conditions merits a reconsideration. The result is that he looks like a pragmatist and not an ideologue.

In other words, the successes of the surge and the Sunni awakening may not leave Obama exposed, they may give him excellent cover to modify a position that was always best-suited for a primary, not a general election. 

--Michael Crowley