Full Circle: Obama Defends Iraq War

Full Circle: Obama Defends Iraq War

Barack Obama would not be President of the United States were it not for his purported opposition to the Iraq War. 

I say “purported,” because he never had to vote on the war, as his unfortunate rival Hillary Clinton did, and because the most important public record of his opposition–a speech in Chicago in 2002–had to be re-created by the Obama campaign. (Obama’s anti-war stance was the “fairy tale” to which Bill Clinton referred.)

Yet since he entered the Oval Office, Obama has steadily undermined the foundations of his opposition to the war. 

In 2011, he went to war in Libya without seeking congressional authorization (which he probably would have received). In 2012, the administration said it might accept some Iranian nuclear enrichment, in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions. And in 2013, in arguing for intervention in Syria, President Obama used many of the same arguments justifying the Iraq War, but avoided asking the UN Security Council for authorization.

Today, President Obama came full circle, explicitly defending the Iraq War in a speech in Brussels as he tried to counter arguments by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin has used the example of American intervention in Iraq (among other places) in an attempt to justify Russia’s intervention in, and annexation of, the Crimea.

Moreover, Russia has pointed to America’s decision to go into Iraq as an example of Western hypocrisy.  Now, it is true that the Iraq War was a subject of vigorous debate not just around the world, but in the United States as well.  I participated in that debate and I opposed our military intervention there.  But even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system.  We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory.  We did not grab its resources for our own gain.  Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people and a fully sovereign Iraqi state that could make decisions about its own future.

Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post is quite outraged by the remarks above, and responds point-by-point to the president’s defense of the war with familiar left-wing arguments. 

You don’t have to agree that the entire effort was an attempt to enrich Halliburton in order to feel a small amount of empathy for Grim and the serious-minded “progressives” who took Obama at his word. (Only a small amount–they were quite eager to be duped.)

Yes, Obama still notes that he opposed the Iraq war. But there is no longer any philosophical or practical basis for his opposition, at least judged by his own actions in office. 

What is left of his anti-war stance–such as it was–is pure partisanship, the same calculation that saw him rail against raising the debt ceiling as a Senator, then, once in the White House, insist that Congress raise it repeatedly. 

A “fairy tale”–that’s putting it charitably.