Iraq is No Longer Bush's Legacy; It's Obama's
Vice President Joe Biden said in 2010 interview that he was "very optimistic about Iraq" and that he believed it was "gonna be one of the great achievements of this administration." The statement ignited some controversy at the time, but not because anyone doubted the stability of Iraq. What many people took exception to was Biden attributing the long, hard-fought successes achieved in that country to the wrong administration.
After all, for as much as President Obama and his mouthpieces have often complained about the challenges they "inherited" from the Bush administration, a chaotic Iraq was not one of the them. The Surge strategy ordered by George W. Bush, led by people like General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, and carried out by our brave American troops, achieved a relatively stable Iraq before President Obama ever took office.
What Obama was handed wasn't the wildfire of insurgent violence that he and his Democratic cohorts reaped great political benefits from. What he was handed were some warm embers.
One would have thought that such conditions would have been good for Obama's presidential legacy, despite him having little (if nothing) to do with achieving them. A stable Iraq throughout his presidency could have led to many great and promising things in that part of the Middle East, and those things would have gone down in the history books as having happened under Obama's watch.
The president, however, wasn't interested in leaving behind a peaceful Iraq. He wasn't interested in Iraq at all. All he wanted to do was fulfill a campaign promise (one of the very few he's actually held true to) by getting United States forces out of Iraq completely. He wanted to be recognized in the history books as the man who ended the Iraq War. Ending it the right way just wasn't a consideration.
Obama ignored the warnings of his military advisers who told him that it was direly important to leave behind a residual force of American troops to demonstrate our country's commitment to a sustained peace, and support the progress that had been made. He ignored the warnings that without a U.S. presence in Iraq serving as a check on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, dumb mistakes in domestic governance were more likely to be made. He also ignored the ample history of how lasting peace is maintained at the end of brutal conflicts.
President Obama just didn't care. His naive, philosophic approach to foreign policy and his hard-left instincts wouldn't allow him to view our troops as peacekeepers. He believed that America in Iraq was the problem - not part of a solution, despite how profoundly the landscape of the country had changed since he first contemplated running for office.
Obama seemed to believe that by magically waving a wand and making the United States disappear from Iraq, all would be good. And without Iraq to manage, he'd have one less distraction standing in the way of him pursuing his domestic, social-justice agenda here in our country.
Today, we turn on the news and we find the horrific images of mass murder, violence, and all of our military and diplomatic gains quickly vanishing before our eyes in Iraq. What we're witnessing is shocking, but it's certainly no surprise. These were the inevitable results of perhaps the most predictable U.S. foreign policy blunder in my lifetime.
While even some liberal news outlets are conceding that the ISIS's march through Iraq wouldn't have happened if Obama had left U.S. troops behind, there are many pundits and politicians who actually have the gall to blame George W. Bush for what is happening.
It's nothing short of pathetic.
Presidents come into office taking on the world as they find it - not as they wish it would be. President Bush didn't want to have to deal with a strong, extensive Al Qaeda network, led by Osama bin Laden, that was already planning the 9/11 attacks. President Obama didn't want to deal with Iraq. They had decisions to make, and its those types of decisions that define presidents' legacies.
The years-old question of whether or not we ever should have invaded Iraq will always be asked, of course, but with everything that's going on in that country right now, a more pertinent question has emerged.
That question was recently asked by Iraq War veteran and amputee J.R. Salzman, who posted it on Twitter along with an old picture of himself standing next to President Obama. The picture was taken at the Walter Reed Medical Center.
"Remember when we met in 2007, Barack Obama?" Salzman asked. "You said you were proud of our sacrifices. So why did you throw them away?"
George W. Bush will forever be recognized as the man responsible for the Iraq War, but the fate of Iraq can no longer be part of his legacy. It's now Obama's legacy, and Salzman's question spells out exactly why.