Keeping His Promise

by Patrick Appel

Marc Lynch thinks it "somewhat surprising how little attention has been paid to the steady drawdown of U.S. forces from Iraq":

Obama deserves the credit he is likely to claim for drawing down troops on schedule and moving towards a vastly reduced U.S. role in Iraq.  No, the war inside Iraq isn't over yet and American forces aren't all gone yet.  And I'm perfectly willing to give credit to the Bush administration for the SOFA it eventually negotiated (which I've previously called Bush's finest moment in Iraq), which created the bipartisan framework to make the drawdown possible.   But it took Obama's determination to actually draw down to actually make it happen -- had McCain won, for instance, I'm quite sure that excuses would have been found to keep many more troops there for far longer.  There are plenty of things which I would have liked to have seen done differently, including a continuation of former Ambassador Ryan Crocker's quiet dialogues with the Iranians and more of an effort to deal with Iraq within its broader regional context.   But overall, meeting the campaign commitment to draw down U.S. forces in Iraq is a real accomplishment which should be acknowledged.

Over the weekend, Bernstein asked liberals how they grade Obama on Iraq and asked conservatives how they currently view the war. Ambinder previews Obama's address to the nation tonight:

[W]ill [Obama] take the bait dangling from Republican hooks and give President Bush credit for the surge? He will telephone President Bush earlier in the day, presumably to thank the president for his judgment in a way that does not acknowledge that his own opposition to the surge was (in retrospect) incorrect. Officials make the argument that people read a lot into the surge, and that a number of different factors, some of them independent of the surge, contributed to the taming of the insurgency.  Obama won't get into those arguments there, but it will be interesting to see how he deals with the historical narrative that has President Bush mistakenly choosing to go to war in Iraq and then supporting a strategy that brought about its close more quickly.