Obama was always perfectly clear about his intent to leave. No residual forces, no peace — but we didn’t care in 2008 and 2012. What about now?
I miss Denny Green. Yes, he goes down as the winningest coach in post-Grant Vikings history. And who can forget how close he came to bringing Minnesota to the Super Bowl … before taking a knee?
But that’s not what I miss.
Green’s a smart guy, and his energetic, rapid-fire interviews made football more entertaining. Of course, the best Green moment — now a YouTube gem — came after he left the Vikes. Having just lost a heartbreaker to da Bears, the then-Cardinals coach exploded when a reporter suggested that his team was caught off-guard by Arizona.
Like Yogi’s “it ain’t over ’til it’s over,” Green’s impassioned “the Bears are what we thought they were” is a grammar-challenged classic because his circular logic somehow makes sense. It helps that he pounded the podium and stomped out of the room. The perfect exclamation point.
Green’s quote came to mind this week as much more somber and depressing news — the disintegration of Iraq — took to the airwaves. As Iraqi/Syrian Sunni militants gobble up parts of Iraq, President Obama’s decision in 2011 to completely withdraw troops is now coming home to roost.
But could what is happening in Iraq now have been predicted in 2011? Of course. This is why the United States has a long history of keeping residual forces in place for extended periods in order to provide stability to war-torn regions. See: Germany, Japan, Korea and Bosnia. If you remove those forces too quickly, a vacuum is created and all hell breaks loose. Also, there is little doubt that some U.S. presence would have pressured Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to govern in the middle.
But to feign surprise on the disintegration of Iraq is disingenuous on everyone’s part.
When the country voted for Obama in 2008, the American people knew — and supported — what we were getting in our new president. Throughout the debates, first with Hillary Clinton and then with John McCain, candidate Obama stood unapologetically behind his vote against the 2007 military surge in Iraq. Although I disagreed with him, I gave him credit for his honesty.
What would have happened to Iraq if Obama had gotten his way in 2007? There would have been a power vacuum, chaos would have followed and Iran would have exerted more power in the region — in other words, exactly what is happening today.
My point is not to say that Obama is right or wrong on his handling of Iraq, but rather to say that he has been consistent. His strategy is diametrically opposed to the Bush doctrine, and that opposition is what the majority of Americans voted for in 2008 and 2012.
So rather than expressing shock over the demise of Iraq or lambasting Obama for his decision in 2011 to remove all troops, Americans need to look in the mirror and remember that Obama is exactly who we thought he was — and voted for. I supported McCain and agree with him now that a residual force would have been a smarter play. But McCain lost, and so did Mitt Romney. Elections do have consequences and, for now, Americans have chosen — through the electoral process — the current path in Iraq.
What will happen next? I’m guessing it will be more of the same. Obama will stay true to form, and our enemies in Syria, Iraq, Iran and, next, Afghanistan will see this as an excellent window of opportunity until the United States chooses another direction. The midterm elections are right around the corner, and the 2016 presidential election is just down the block. This is how a democracy works. Let the debates begin.
Jim Triggs, of Edina, is a marketing executive.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.