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The Four Good Things About Obama’s Iraq Speech

Posted on September 1 2010 12:00 pm
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I’m not going to stomp on every sentence in President Obama’s speech about Iraq. There were actually four good things about the speech that we can appreciate. The first is how this “withdrawal” is occurring. I put “withdrawal” in quotation marks for a reason: Namely that it isn’t really a “withdrawal.” And the “combat forces” are now “advisors”—“advisors” that will be performing the same functions as they have as “combat forces” since 2008 after the surge improved the security situation, as Kenneth Pollack notes.

U.S. forces have been playing a secondary role since the surge permitted them to. This “transition” that Obama announced has actually already happened. He’s just bringing the troops home at a faster pace than called for in the timeline agreed upon by President Bush and the Iraqi government. If Bush magically had a third term, his own withdrawal would likely not have been much slower than we’re seeing today. So the first good point is that President Obama isn’t completely pulling out the troops and a large number will remain to carry out counter-terrorism tasks, train and advise Iraq’s security forces, and act as a backup force if needed.

The second good point is that he emphasized that the withdrawal of “combat forces” isn’t a withdrawal of commitment to Iraq’s future. The Iraqis very much needed to hear this. Nearly 60 percent of Iraqis feel that now is not the right time for U.S. forces to depart and 53 percent disagree with the August 31 deadline to end combat operations and 51 percent believe the “withdrawal” will have a negative effect.

Thirdly, President Obama was optimistic. Again, the Iraqis needed to hear this expression of confidence and Americans need to hear that we’re leaving behind an Iraq that has, considering the huge amount of obstacles it faced, been remarkably successful.

Finally, President Obama did not review the decision to invade. It’s irrelevant now and when you’re thanking the troops and congratulating the Iraqis, it’s not wise to argue that their work was the “wrong place at the wrong time” even if you appreciate their service.

Of course, I feel there were some things missing from the speech. But I’ll get to that in another post…

Ryan Mauro is the founder of

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