Last night, one of the right’s more salient (and persistent) critiques of Obama’s foreign policy died a quiet death, as Facebook blogger Sarah Palin led the way to cheer Iraq’s newfound stability as proof that the Bush-era surge, contrary to candidate Obama’s expectations, did its job.
Here, she (and the right) actually have us. Bush’s “surge” appears to have worked, and for this, we should be very happy. Of course the “surge” came years late, and proves rather than refutes the charge that the previous administration mishandled the war from the date of the invasion to the date of the surge. Nonetheless, credit where it’s due.
Missing from almost all press coverage of Obama’s speech, though, and conspicuous by its absence from the right-wing talking points du jour, is the point that Obama’s timetable for the scaled withdrawal of forces represents a huge promise kept, and an inseparable part of this new success story. We come to the end of the “combat mission” with more boots on the ground at home than ever contemplated by the Republican alternative plan. This success validates the notion that Democrats can manage wars, and that timely withdrawal isn’t cowardly. It also speaks to a larger point about the rhetoric we indulge when we fight foreign foes.
Republican critiques of the “timetable” linked back to the larger trope that any showing of weakness — whether through the open discussion of withdrawal, or the presentation of anything less than a unified front (“support the President, or the terrorists win”) — translates to treason, by “giving aid and comfort to the enemy,” and inspiring them with the notion that America is beatable yet, because the people’s resolve can yet be shaken. One hopes, in light of this victory, that we can finally do away with the foolish notion that dissent, and cogent military planning, are unpatriotic.
I’m not optimistic.