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Americans Have Lost Confidence In President Obama On Foreign Policy

Obama Marine One

A new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds the American public largely dissatisfied with the way President Obama is handling the situation in Iraq:

President Obama receives his worst marks yet for handling the situation in Iraq, with 52 percent disapproving and strong negative sentiment now outpacing strong approval by 2 to 1 (34 to 17 percent) in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Asked whether the U.S. should launch air strikes against Sunni insurgents, 45 percent support and 46 percent oppose that idea. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans support air strikes, compared with 44 percent among Democrats and 41 percent of independents. The gap between men and women is just as large and extends across party lines. Men support air strikes by a 54 to 40 percent margin, while women oppose them by 52 to 38 percent.

Nearly two-thirds of the public, however, opposes sending U.S. ground forces to combat insurgents, including at least six in 10 Democrats, Republicans and independents. No demographic or political group in the poll expresses majority support for deploying ground troops, while opposition surges to above 70 percent among those over age 50 and post-graduates.

(…)

For the first time in Post-ABC polls disapproval of Obama for handling Iraq outpaces approval, 52 to 42 percent. His ratings tilted positive the last time Iraq approval was asked in September 2010 – 49 percent approving and 45 percent disapproving, with nearly one-third of Republicans giving him positive marks (31 percent). But Republican support has plummeted to 13 percent in the new poll while independents have also shifted negatively, with the share approving of his Iraq efforts dipping from 49 to 40 percent. Democrats have been more consistent in approval of Obama, though their level of support fails to match Republicans’ opposition.

These numbers aren’t too dissimilar from those in the New York Times/CBS Poll that I wrote about yesterday, and some additional numbers form that poll drive home the point that the American public is basically fed up with the situation in Iraq and with the President’s foreign policy:

Dissatisfaction with President Obama’s conduct of foreign policy has shot up among both Republicans and Democrats in the past month, even though a slim majority supports his recent decision to send military advisers to Iraq to confront the growing threat from militants there, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

The survey suggests that most Americans back some of Mr. Obama’s approaches to the crisis in Iraq, including majority support for the possibility of drone strikes. But the poll documents an increasing lack of faith in the president and his leadership, and shows deep concern that further intervention by the United States in Iraq could lead to another long and costly involvement there.

The poll found that 58 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Mr. Obama is handling foreign policy, a jump of 10 points in the last month to the highest level since Mr. Obama took office in 2009. The spike in disapproval is especially striking among Democrats, nearly a third of whom said they did not approve of his handling of foreign policy.

Fifty-two percent of Americans say they disapprove of how the president is dealing with the current violence in Iraq (including about a third of Democrats); 37 percent approve.

(…)

Although the survey suggests that Mr. Obama’s small steps toward military action in Iraq are in line with those of many Americans, it also indicates that people may still yearn for their commander in chief to manage foreign crises, even when the solutions are not obvious to them. A large majority thinks that the United States has important interests in Iraq’s future. Two-thirds said Mr. Obama had not done enough to explain American goals in the country.

Mr. Obama built his 2008 presidential campaign in part on opposing George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in March 2003, and the departure of all troops in 2011 for a time appeared to close a searing chapter in American life. The latest questions about a new United States involvement there threatens to reopen old wounds.

“We didn’t finish up the job in Vietnam, and we didn’t finish up the first time in Iraq or the second time in Iraq,” said Phil Clark, 62, a Democrat and retired nurse from Santee, Calif. “I have a lot of animosity toward Bush because of those actions. I just see it all happening again.”

Also, three-fourths of those surveyed said the war was not worth the American lives lost and other costs of attacking Iraq, a record level of regret about a conflict that lasted nearly nine years.

Mr. Obama’s declaration in recent weeks that he will not send ground troops back into Iraq mirrors the views of a wide majority of Americans. But after a decade of war, a substantial number — 42 percent — said the United States still had a responsibility to do something about the violence in Iraq.

And yet, the poll showed that the country is divided about how to meet it. Republicans tend to favor more aggressive action: Fifty-four percent of Republicans support using manned aircraft to carry out targeted attacks in Iraq, while only 38 percent of Democrats favor such action. Nearly 70 percent of Republicans said they would support the use of drones in Iraq, compared with 55 percent for Democrats.

This isn’t the first indication we’ve gotten of public dissatisfaction with the President on foreign policy, of course. Just last week we saw an NBC News poll that showed that Americans were not only giving the President negative approval numbers on foreign policy, but that they had also lost confidence in his ability to lead. Prior to that, other polling showed that the negative public reaction to foreign policy crises and the President’s handling of the same was dragging his overall job approval numbers down as well. If nothing else, the consistency in the polls indicates that this is an actual problem for the President and not just a polling anomaly that will disappear in a couple of months.

Going forward, the real problem for the President, though, is the extent to which his inability to convince the American public that a particular course of action in foreign policy is a good idea, or that he is handling a matter in a way that will protect the nation’s vital interests limits his ability to actually get things done. Theoretically, of course, a President can get a lot done in the foreign policy area without having to worry about public support or authority from Congress. Realistically, though, a President who tries to act on the world stage while carrying around the perception that his own citizens don’t support or trust him is going to have a hard time convincing allies and adversaries of much of anything.

It’s hard to say exactly what it is about the President’s foreign policy that has led to this situation. I tend to disagree with the conservative critique that he has been a “weak” President or that he has weakened the United States, for example. In fact, most of my specific criticisms of the President’s foreign policy over the past five years have been due to the extent to which he has continued the aggressive, interventionist policies of his predecessor and expanded on them in connection with things like the Drone War, the action in Libya, or the President’s aborted effort to gather support for an attack on Syria. In the case of the American public, I suspect much of the antipathy toward the President can be laid at the feet of the general war weariness that we see in poll after poll on these issues. As I’ve noted before, the worst legacy of our decade of war may end up being the extent to which it leads the American public to be reflexively against almost any foreign intervention, even ones that might be necessary.

As things stand, I don’t see the President’s numbers improving this area. It used to be the case that a foreign crisis would have a “rally around the flag” effect that would boost a President’s job approval numbers. For President Obama, the exact opposite seems to be happening. Given that it seems unlikely the current round of world crises will end any time soon, it seems that he’ll be in the negative for the remainder of his term in office.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. al-Ameda says:

    Nearly two-thirds of the public, however, opposes sending U.S. ground forces to combat insurgents, including at least six in 10 Democrats, Republicans and independents. No demographic or political group in the poll expresses majority support for deploying ground troops, while opposition surges to above 70 percent among those over age 50 and post-graduates.

    It appears that that’s exactly what the president is doing – no troops, he’s sending advisors.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  2. Tillman says:

    For the first time in Post-ABC polls disapproval of Obama for handling Iraq outpaces approval, 52 to 42 percent. His ratings tilted positive the last time Iraq approval was asked in September 2010 – 49 percent approving and 45 percent disapproving, with nearly one-third of Republicans giving him positive marks (31 percent).

    Oooh, he’s lost ground on a question that hasn’t been asked in nearly 4 years.

    A large majority thinks that the United States has important interests in Iraq’s future. Two-thirds said Mr. Obama had not done enough to explain American goals in the country.

    These seem related.

    I don’t know how you arrived at the sweeping headline.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  3. C. Clavin says:

    So…Americans are in agreement with what is happening…but think that Obama should be doing something different?
    That’s why these polls are nonsense.
    They are little more than confirmation that the right-wing entertainment complex is effective.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 4

  4. Mikey says:

    From The Atlantic:

    Obama’s Disastrous Iraq Policy: An Autopsy

    Yes, the Iraq War was a disaster of historic proportions. Yes, seeing its architects return to prime time to smugly slam President Obama while taking no responsibility for their own, far greater, failures is infuriating.

    But sooner or later, honest liberals will have to admit that Obama’s Iraq policy has been a disaster. Since the president took office, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has grown ever more tyrannical and ever more sectarian, driving his country’s Sunnis toward revolt. Since Obama took office, Iraq watchers—including those within his own administration—have warned that unless the United States pushed hard for inclusive government, the country would slide back into civil war. Yet the White House has been so eager to put Iraq in America’s rearview mirror that, publicly at least, it has given Maliki an almost-free pass. Until now, when it may be too late.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 6

  5. anjin-san says:

    When a Republican is president, we are told that a real leader leads by doing what he thinks is right and trusting his instincts, polls be damned.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 18 Thumb down 4

  6. Rafer Janders says:

    @Mikey:

    Since Obama took office, Iraq watchers—including those within his own administration—have warned that unless the United States pushed hard for inclusive government, the country would slide back into civil war.

    And how exactly would we have done that, if al-Maliki didn’t want to? We can bribe, beg, cajole, plead, bluster and threaten, but at the end of the day, Iraq is a sovereign state and Maliki had his own desires and interests, so if he didn’t want an inclusive government, it wasn’t going to happen.

    Sometimes the public wishes that the president would get things done by magic. It’s a nice wish, but it won’t make it so.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 4

  7. C. Clavin says:

    @Mikey:
    So Beinart thinks Obama should have magically forced the Maliki government to do something they weren’t ever going to do?
    Sort of like it’s the Presidents fault Republicans wouldn’t agree to the Grand Bargain? Boehner wanted to do the bargain but his caucus said no…because they don’t want to do anything that might let Obama look good. A magical President could overcome this instransegence.
    Or that Republicans won’t agree to immigration reform? Same thing.
    Obama just needs to use his magical powers to make it so.
    There is this odd idea about the magical Presidency that permeates the Washington punditry.
    It’s stupid…but pervasive.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 4

  8. @Rafer Janders:

    Obviously if Romney were president, al-Maliki would have suddenly had a road to Damascus style conversion and founded the Iraqi Tea Party. Because who could possibly resist the charisma of Mitt Romney?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 3

  9. John425 says:

    Syria, Libya, Palestinan squatters, Israel, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. Obama, asleep at the switch.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 19

  10. Dave Schuler says:

    The primary constitutional jobs of the president are administering the federal government, foreign policy, commander-in-chief of the military, making appointments, and signing bills into law. Cast doubt on the president’s ability to handle enough of those and the president has a real problem.

    I think the president needs to get out in front of this. I don’t expect magic. I think a little forthrightness would go a long way. The majority of Americans aren’t strongly partisan and I believe that they want the president to succeed and are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  11. Rafer Janders says:

    @Mikey:

    Since Obama took office, Iraq watchers—including those within his own administration—have warned that unless the United States pushed hard for inclusive government, the country would slide back into civil war.

    How — specifically — would we have done that?

    Critiques like this are usually of the “the president should have done something!” variety. When you drill down and ask, what, specifically, that something should be, and how it could have been actually achieved in the face of real-world opposition and facts on the ground, you usually just get back a “well, he should have done something!”

    Which is often the opposite of the something the complainer wanted done six months ago….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 4

  12. Mikey says:

    @Rafer Janders: @C. Clavin:

    You underestimate the weight a U. S. President’s words and positions carry, even with Maliki. And “well, he wouldn’t have done what we want anyway” is a crap rationalization. The President didn’t even try.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 18

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    After all I’ll be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope
    you write again very soon!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

  14. @Mikey:

    You underestimate the weight a U. S. President’s words and positions carry, even with Maliki.

    So basically you’re mad that Tinkerbell died; Obama should have clapped more.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 3

  15. C. Clavin says:

    @Mikey:

    The President didn’t even try.

    I’m willing to bet that’s nonsense.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 16 Thumb down 5

  16. anjin-san says:

    @ John425

    Obama, asleep at the switch.

    Why don’t you just provide us with a feed from foxnews.com and skip the pretense that you are posting your own thoughts?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 6

  17. mattbernius says:

    I strongly recommend reading the Atlantic’s article as it’s not a polemic. It’s a fair handed, well sourced, and sobering analysis of some of the problem’s with the President’s Iraq policy.

    Ultimately, Maliki *might* have done what he did anyway. But the article sources a lot of evidence to suggest that the Obama administration made a strategic decision to pair back it’s engagement and attempts to influence the Maliki government, while at the same time providing a lot of rhetorical cover for said government.

    Ultimately, as with the Economy, a President’s ability to influence foreign policy is limited. Likewise the President often gets disproportionate accolades and blame for how things go.

    Without a doubt, Iraq is still the fault of the Bush administration. But that doesn’t discharge Obama’s responsibility for some of what happened. Are the two equivalent? No. And that’s not the argument that Beihart or we are making. That said, there were clear issues with Obama’s diplomatic strategy and it’s fair to hold him accountable for those.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  18. Neil Hudelson says:

    @John425:

    Dude, you just listed a bunch of countries that have been thorns in our side for 40 to 60 years.

    Syria, Libya, Palestinan squatters, Israel, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan.
    George W. Bush asleep at the switch.

    Syria, Libya, Palestinan squatters, Israel, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan.
    Clinton asleep at the switch.

    Syria, Libya, Palestinan squatters, Israel, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan.
    Bush asleep at the switch.

    Syria, Libya, Palestinan squatters, Israel, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan.
    Reagan asleep at the switch.

    Syria, Libya, Palestinan squatters, Israel, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan.
    Carter asleep at the switch.

    See how that works?

    At least put some thought into your drivel.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 5

  19. wr says:

    @Mikey: You know, if Obama had been the one to hand pick Maliki and install him in office, he’d deserve this criticism. But he was Bush and Cheney’s puppet — short of re-invading, what was Obama supposed to do?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 17 Thumb down 3

  20. wr says:

    @Mikey: Oh, and PS — This was written by a man who ten years ago said the Democrats should throw anyone who didn’t support invading Iraq out of the party. So forgive me if I don’t live and die by his words.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  21. Rafer Janders says:

    @Mikey:

    You underestimate the weight a U. S. President’s words and positions carry, even with Maliki.

    I really don’t.

    Look, foreign despots respond mainly to their own situation on the ground: who supports them, who’s against them, who wants to kill them, how many men can they rally, who can be trusted, where’s the money coming from, who can be bribed or killed or gotten out of the way?

    By contrast, a US president’s words are…what? Air. Unless we can give him a better deal than he can get himself — and that usually means bribe him with cash money or weapons, or blackmail him with the withdrawal of same — then he’s going to ignore us. So we can bribe, or we can blackmail, but then we have to be willing to abide by the results if we go through with it — and we usually aren’t.

    Say that two years ago we’d told Maliki “we’re going to pull all US military support unless you reform the government.” What does he do? Nothing, because he knows we’re bluffing, he knows we can’t afford to pull the support (and he knows that the same people now blaming Obama for “not doing something” would have flip-flopped back then and blamed him for pulling support).

    We’re not all-powerful. We can’t just make things happen by the power of our implacable will. We never could, actually, but we somehow convinced ourselves of that.

    Disagree? Cite me some relevant historical examples in the last sixty years when a US president’s words convinced a despot to change course.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 1

  22. Rafer Janders says:

    @Mikey:

    The President didn’t even try.

    Try to do what, specifically, and how, specifically, would he have done this? Show your work.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  23. wr says:

    @mattbernius: “I strongly recommend reading the Atlantic’s article as it’s not a polemic. It’s a fair handed, well sourced, and sobering analysis of some of the problem’s with the President’s Iraq policy.”

    Again, from someone who has been wrong at every stage in the Iraq saga. So even if he writes convincingly, I hope you will forgive me for keeping his track record in mind. Again, this is a man who believed and wrote that any Democrat who wouldn’t cheer for the war needed to be thrown out of the party. I would as soon listen to his advice on Iraq as I would Andrew Sullivan’s.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 1

  24. bandit says:

    It’s someone else’s fault

    Yours truly

    Barack Obama and all my dbag supporters

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 18

  25. Matt Bernius says:

    @wr:
    First, in defense of Bienhart, he’s also admitted to being wrong in Iraq and done a lot of work since then to figure out why he was wrong.

    So basically you are saying that if someone got something wrong once he’s not worth ever listening to again.

    Again, if you go to the article you find that he’s sourced all of his major points. He’s making a solid argument.

    You know, if Obama had been the one to hand pick Maliki and install him in office, he’d deserve this criticism.

    While this is true, the fact that Obama team chose to essentially not engage with Maliki or attempt to seriously influence him — while at the same time saying he was doing a good job — gives them some sort of pass?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  26. C. Clavin says:

    @mattbernius:
    Hillary Clintons book makes it clear:

    For the White House, “The question at the time was, how will a residual troop presence reduce sectarianism or make Maliki create a more inclusive government, and there wasn’t good evidence to support that,” said former National Security Council spokesperson Tommy Vietor.

    Unless she is lying…the idea Beinart puts out there…that Obama could have done something more presumably by magic…is bunk.
    Credit Beinart…he is one of the few that have evaluated his original stand on Iraq and changed his position.
    But I still think he’s off base here…based on other contemporaneous records.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  27. Joe says:

    This probably “ends” the presidency of Obama and could welcome the presidency of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. We’ll see.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 10

  28. Rafer Janders says:

    @Mikey:

    And “well, he wouldn’t have done what we want anyway” is a crap rationalization. The President didn’t even try.

    Mikey, before say, the last two weeks, did you even know or care about the inclusiveness or lack thereof of the Maliki government? Did it ever enter your thoughts once, and did you sit around wishing the president would address it? Did you have an opinion on the Shiite tilt of the Iraqi Army and security forces, and were you disappointed that Sunnis were not given a greater role in decision-making?

    I’m going to wager the answer is “no.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 4

  29. Rafer Janders says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    So basically you are saying that if someone got something wrong once he’s not worth ever listening to again.

    Beat that straw man, Matt! Beat ‘em good!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  30. C. Clavin says:

    @John425:
    So problems that go back decades and decades are Obama’s fault?
    Your logic astounds.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3

  31. @Rafer Janders:

    Try to do what, specifically, and how, specifically, would he have done this? Show your work.

    Just try. Foreign policy is like The Force; it runs primarily on sheer willpower. If Obama had just WANTED peace in Iraq intensely enough, it would have happened.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  32. Matt Bernius says:

    @Rafer Janders:
    Excuse me, but this is what @WR wrote to justify not even looking at the article. Please point out my straw-man…

    This was written by a man who ten years ago said the Democrats should throw anyone who didn’t support invading Iraq out of the party. So forgive me if I don’t live and die by his words.

    [...]

    Again, from someone who has been wrong at every stage in the Iraq saga. So even if he writes convincingly, I hope you will forgive me for keeping his track record in mind. Again, this is a man who believed and wrote that any Democrat who wouldn’t cheer for the war needed to be thrown out of the party. I would as soon listen to his advice on Iraq as I would Andrew Sullivan’s.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  33. Matt Bernius says:

    @C. Clavin:
    The problem with the quote you just sourced is it boiled everything down to troop presence.

    I — and I don’t believe Beinart — is advocating for boots on the ground or ignoring the status of forces agreement. However, I humble suggest that there is a wide range of room between boots on the ground and “magic.”

    That entire section is called “diplomacy” which can be enacted in LOTs of ways. Beinart’s point is that Obama failed on the diplomatic front, in part because he just wanted to be done with Iraq.

    I’ve yet to see anyone actually raise a counter argument beyond “you people are talking about magic.”

    Again, if this is magic, then why have a State Department (and yes, that is a legitmate straw-man for the purposes of making my point).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  34. Matt Bernius says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Mikey, before say, the last two weeks, did you even know or care about the inclusiveness or lack thereof of the Maliki government? Did it ever enter your thoughts once, and did you sit around wishing the president would address it? Did you have an opinion on the Shiite tilt of the Iraqi Army and security forces, and were you disappointed that Sunnis were not given a greater role in decision-making?

    I’m going to wager the answer is “no.”

    That’s an asinine point. It’s not a matter of Mikey caring. It is a matter of the Department of State caring and the people who signed up for the job of “caring” handling this.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

  35. Just Me says:

    I think we need to be careful in that not having much confidence in Obama doesn’t necessarily mean you think Romney or Bush or the GOP would be better. It isn’t really Obama or Bush but a desire for Obama to look like he is competently dealing with the issue.

    Right now I think Obama seems to be unsure of what to do and honestly I think Iraq doesn’t have a clear solution. The Middle East is currently a powder keg and there isn’t a clear path to dealing with it. It isn’t going to get better and it is probably going to get worse-especially as Iran seems to become a nuclear power.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  36. Pinky says:

    @Rafer Janders: I really, really, really don’t get what you’re going for with this. Is the President only allowed to act on things that Mikey has thought about? Or is Mikey only allowed to comment on things that he can demonstrate he’s thought about before the past two weeks? I don’t know Mikey – perhaps he is the head of the NSC, in which case your comment makes sense. Otherwise, I just don’t get it.

    Edited to add: I see that Matt had the same problem I did. Minds think alike.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  37. stonetools says:

    If the President had only flown Maliki in, invoked the FORCE, waved his hand, and said, “You really want to form an inclusive government with the Sunnis and Kurds”, Maliki would have said, “I really want to form an inclusive government with the Sunnis and Kurds”, flown back, faced down the ayatollahs and Shia militias that formed the base of his support and faced down his Iranian backers… OK, at this point, everyone can see that’s nonsense.
    Maliki was being non-inclusive even when US troops were present. What in the world would lead anyone to believe he would agree to be inclusive after American forces left?
    That said, maybe it’s time for another Obama speech in which he could explain the facts of life in the world abroad to the American people.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3

  38. rudderpedals says:

    @Just Me: Indeed. The situation is so vague right now it’s prudent to refrain from doing stuff we can’t take back, at least until the state of play is clarified.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  39. wr says:

    @Matt Bernius: @Matt Bernius: “So basically you are saying that if someone got something wrong once he’s not worth ever listening to again.”

    That straw man is way beneath you.

    It’s not that Beinart was wrong about Iraq — although he was, spectacularly. It’s that at the time he declared that not only was he completely right, he was so completely right that not only should no one listen to those who disagreed with him, they should be banished from the entire national conversation.

    That’s a writer who has no interest in anything beyond himself. So now he says he’s grown and changed? That’s nice. Andrew Sullivan says he’s grown and changed since he declared that anyone who disagreed with him about the war was literally a traitor. And Thomas Friedman said we should invade Iraq because sometimes you want to tell someone “suck on this” and since then he’s tried all sorts of ways to claim he’s really sad he said something so evil.

    But no matter how much waffling follows, those are all sociopathic declarations — “I define reality, and no one can disagree with me.”

    Again, if Beinart has changed his mind about invading Iraq, that’s nice. But I see no evidence that he’s learned the bigger lesson. And so, no, I have no interest in his opinion on anything. Other people were wrong about the war — Yglesias comes to mind, and John Cole — and I read them all the time. But Beinart? When he shows up with an actual Green Lantern, maybe. Until then, no thanks.

    But of course, if you choose to trust people who have proven themselves to be completely unworthy of trust over and over and over again… well, that’s your choice, and I hope you are happy with the consequences.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3

  40. stonetools says:

    @rudderpedals:

    Bingo. The strong temptation here is to follow the “Yes, Minister” paradigm:

    “We must do something!”
    “X is something”
    “Therefore we must do X!”

    So far I have yet to see anyone a convincing case that ANY course of action will work.
    Also too, remember the folks who were urging that we should be “arming the Syrian opposition?” Well, right now, it’s the “Syrian opposition” that’s overruning the Sunni areas in Iraq.

    Obama really needs to make a speech setting out point by point the way the “let’s do something ” crowd has been always wrong since February 2003 and invite them politely to STFU. He then needs to patiently explain why hasty action now could lead to a disastrous quagmire later.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  41. wr says:

    @Matt Bernius: “Excuse me, but this is what @WR wrote to justify not even looking at the article. Please point out my straw-man…”

    Beinart wasn’t wrong once. He was wrong and wrong and wrong and wrong and wrong and wrong and, oh yes, wrong.

    I don’t know how you judge the trustworthiness of the people you read. I suppose we could all have a long debate on whatever Dick Cheney says today and completely ignore how he screwed up the entire world last time anyone listened to him, because, hey, why shouldn’t we listen to him just because he was wrong once before…

    There are 300 million people in this country. I could listen to each one for one minute and then weigh all their opinions and draw a conclusion from that — but of course, that would take close to 200 years if I never took a break. So I need a set of criteria to decide whose opinion I will take seriously and whose I won’t.

    I’m sorry, but “being published by the same people who publish Megan McArdle” isn’t enough to outweigh years of arrogance and wrongness.

    But please, feel free to use your willingness to listen to proven fools as evidence of your moral superiority.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  42. John425 says:

    @C. Clavin: Clifford–Obama has had six years to “fix” things. Unfortunately, he has made things worse, not better.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  43. Tillman says:

    @wr:

    Again, if Beinart has changed his mind about invading Iraq, that’s nice. But I see no evidence that he’s learned the bigger lesson.

    How, exactly, would you notice he’s “learned the bigger lesson” if you don’t listen to him?

    And here I fancied that Republicans were the only ones with effective epistemic bubbles.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  44. John425 says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Yeah, but wasn’t Obama supposed to slow the oceans and heal the planet?
    Pssst–the Messiah has no clothes!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 7

  45. John425 says:

    @anjin-san: My own thoughts are that he has had six years to complete his own Messianic spoutings and hasn’t accomplished zip– that’s nothing, zero, nada, bupkis..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 5

  46. Tillman says:

    @Mikey: This section struck me as the most persuasive:

    On December 12, 2011, just days before the final U.S. troops departed Iraq, Maliki visited the White House. According to [former State Department official] Nasr, he told Obama that Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, an Iraqiya leader and the highest-ranking Sunni in his government, supported terrorism. Maliki, argues Nasr, was testing Obama, probing to see how the U.S. would react if he began cleansing his government of Sunnis. Obama replied that it was a domestic Iraqi affair. After the meeting, Nasr claims, Maliki told aides, “See! The Americans don’t care.”

    In public remarks after the meeting, Obama praised Maliki for leading “Iraq’s most inclusive government yet.” Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister, Saleh al-Mutlaq, another Sunni, told CNN he was “shocked” by the president’s comments. “There will be a day,” he predicted, “whereby the Americans will realize that they were deceived by al-Maliki … and they will regret that.”

    A week later, the Iraqi government issued a warrant for Hashimi’s arrest. Thirteen of his bodyguards were arrested and tortured. Hashimi fled the country and, while in exile, was sentenced to death.

    “Over the next 18 months,” writes Pollack, “many Sunni leaders were arrested or driven from politics, including some of the most non-sectarian, non-violent, practical and technocratic.” Enraged by Maliki’s behavior, and emboldened by the prospect of a Sunni takeover in neighboring Syria, Iraqi Sunnis began reconnecting with their old jihadist allies. Yet, in public at least, the Obama administration still acted as if all was well.

    The people being cited in this article aren’t partisans. They are academics, nonpartisan journalists, experts on Iraq. This is solid analysis. The biggest criticisms come from that vanguard of conservative schmuckery the Brookings Institution.

    To wish away the blunder here, to instead claim limits on American power, is to ignore what we didn’t do or attempt to do. This was politically motivated. We were all tired of Iraq and wanted out. Obama wanted to wash his hands of it and be done. So did we all.

    That we could have done more diplomatically is without much question in this regard.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  47. C. Clavin says:

    @John425:
    He’s had 6 years to correct 80 year old problems and he hasn’t … and you condemn him for that???
    OK then………..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  48. @Tillman:

    So again, what should have Obama done? Cancelled the trip? Called him names in front of the press? Shot him in the Oval Office?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  49. superdestroyer says:

    Who cares about polling numbers? The real interesting change in foreign policy is that the Paleo-cons are finally going to get the foreign policy that they want but not for the reasons that they want it.

    As politics in the U.S. becomes more and more a fight over entitlements (see the lightly covered initiative for paid maternity leave) then ever dollar spent on defense, initiatives and foreign countries, and in direct foreign aid will be seen as a lost dollar. As politics in the U.S. is reduced to ethnic and racial groups fighting over government benefits, I doubt if any one ethnic/racial group will want to spend political capital worrying about some other country.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  50. Tillman says:

    @Stormy Dragon: For a start, you probably don’t refer to your counterpart as presiding over the most inclusive Iraqi government yet when, as stonetools pointed out, you don’t have a good record of it. Read that press release/transcript from the White House on the day of our troop withdrawal. Obama gives Maliki plenty of rhetorical cover he didn’t have to.

    Second, when news breaks that the Vice President of this most inclusive of governments has been issued a warrant for arrest on trumped-up charges and his bodyguards imprisoned and tortured, you probably say something. You don’t wait for the Sunni faction in parliament to boycott before acting.

    Or I guess you can pretend that we couldn’t do anything at all, but that strikes me as being about as fanciful as thinking we could have stopped all the problems with sorcery.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  51. An Interested Party says:

    Obama gives Maliki plenty of rhetorical cover he didn’t have to.

    Second, when news breaks that the Vice President of this most inclusive of governments has been issued a warrant for arrest on trumped-up charges and his bodyguards imprisoned and tortured, you probably say something.

    If these things would have stopped the Sunnis from linking up with the jihadists there might be some merit to the argument, but if not, then what’s the point? Oh yes, the President did “something” even if it wouldn’t have stopped the current mess…this is all like the Titanic sinking and Captain Smith handing off his position to someone else…perhaps that other person could have stopped the ship from sinking…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  52. anjin-san says:

    @ John425

    the Messiah

    I’m not sure about your thoughts, but your words are saying “don’t take me seriously”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  53. Peterh says:

    my two cents…..the choice is really whether Obama should re-enter a clusterfk and by doing so, giving the wingnuts a reason to call it a clusterfk under Obama …….or….piss off the wingnuts for staying calm and cool (maybe play some golf) and not adding fuel to the fire…..it’s not like clusterfks discriminate regarding life….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  54. jukeboxgrad says:

    C. Clavin:

    So problems that go back decades and decades are Obama’s fault?

    Sunni and Shia have been at war for over 1,300 years. Conservatives think history began on 1/20/09.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  55. bill says:

    @C. Clavin: yes, we all know the nyt, cbs,nbc,abc,wapo,etc are all fronts for the republican party.

    he was always a disaster at foreign policy- mainly because he has none let alone any experience with said.. and no, i will not show my work, proving a negative is not possible! ok, keep squirming y’all.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 7

  56. Nikki says:

    It is amazing to me how much right-wingers continue to long for our American forces to become subject to Sharia Law by staying in Iraq under the conditions the Iraqis demanded.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  57. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @al-Ameda:

    no troops, he’s sending advisors.

    1959 seems soooooo far away now. That President only sent advisors, too.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  58. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Pinky: I could be wrong about this, but I see Rafer’s point as critizing the President’s actions on a subject which, probably, no one within this particular commentariat has given a rat’s a$$ about, and basing that criticism on a fairly demonstrable absense of information is, well… presumptous.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  59. Mikey says:

    @Rafer Janders: You’d lose that bet. I’ve been concerned about Malikil’s lack of inclusiveness, and the Obama administration’s reluctance to do anything about it, for as long as Maliki has been in power.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  60. Fog says:

    I propose we go back to the old rule – the “you got a better idea?’ rule. I believe it was called “constructive criticism” back in the day. The price of having an opinion was having to defend your own better idea. If you couldn’t, or wouldn’t, do that, your opinion was justly ignored. I know it would destroy 90% of political commentary on the net, but at least we wouldn’t have to put up with crap like “Unfortunately, he has made things worse, not better” as if the definition of better was “more Americans killed in Iraq this month.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  61. Rafer Janders says:

    @Mikey:

    Yeah, I…don’t believe you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  62. Rafer Janders says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:

    Correct.

    People who, a month ago, never once thought about this issue are no convinced, convinced!, that the president should have done something different, though they themselves had no idea there was even a problem or what to do about it themselves before Fox told them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  63. Rafer Janders says:

    A good summary from Lawyers, Guns & Money:

    Unfortunately, it’s surrounded by vague claims that somehow if Obama didn’t give Maliki a “free pass” Iraq would have better government. Because nothing would have increased Maliki’s authority like it being challenged by a country still occupying the country or something. The argument is just the purest green lanternism; Beinart can’t identify any specific source of leverage, it’s just that Maliki would be running a better government if Obama wanted him to because something, and if he won’t deliver Iraqis will replace him with someone more to Obama’s liking because look, balsa wood nuclear drones of terror!

    Among the many fallacious assumptions of Iraq War supporters was their complete inattention to state power. Even supporters who weren’t naive enough to think that Iraq would be immediately transformed into a stable multiparty democracy seemed to have the misunderstanding that a strong, effective state is the natural order of things and the invasion of Iraq just transferred leadership of that state to someone better than Saddam at least. But that’s not how things work. Even if Maliki wanted to, he’s not in a position to just cut a deal with Obama and enforce it. Presiding over a very weak state, he’s reliant on various other actors to maintain some semblance of authority. It’s not at all surprising that this would result in a sectarian government, and this isn’t a fact that the American president can just will out of existence.

    And that’s the hubris that affected Iraq war supporters then, and still affects Iraq dead-enders today. The idea that the course of another nation’s destiny is shaped by the verbal “invitations” of the president of the United States is bizarre, and tends to go along with the even worse idea that there’s nothing American guns and bombs can’t accomplish if one just wants to badly enough.

    http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2014/06/cant-remake-another-countrys-political-culture-without-green-lantern

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  64. Robin Cohen says:

    Americans have lost confidence in Obama. Period.
    He is a blunderer whose ideas are seriously misguided in domestic and foreign affairs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

  65. gVOR08 says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    So basically you’re mad that Tinkerbell died; Obama should have clapped more.

    I’d have gone with Green Lantern (if only Obama had enough willpower he could do anything), but Tinkerbell’s good.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  66. wr says:

    @Tillman: “And here I fancied that Republicans were the only ones with effective epistemic bubbles.”

    So if I don’t read writers you decide are worthy I’m in an epistemic bubble? I thought I did a pretty good job of explaining why I would no longer read a certain set of writers who had proven themselves not only wrong, but arrogant and narcissistic.. But apparently reading a writer and judging him wanting is not a good enough reason to stop reading him.

    So why don’t you give me a list of the approved writers who are required reading to prove I’m not in a bubble? Or am I required to read every word ever published to prove my open-mindedness to you?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  67. al-Ameda says:

    @Robin Cohen:

    Americans have lost confidence in Obama. Period.
    He is a blunderer whose ideas are seriously misguided in domestic and foreign affairs.

    LOL!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  68. Tillman says:

    @wr: I’m glad you’ve decided to bow to my superior wisdom! Allow me to draft a list of–heeeey, you’re being sarcastic!

    Dude, you’re not “reading a writer and judging him wanting,” you’re claiming anything he writes after monumentally screwing up (and changing his mind later, acknowledging his screw up, and working to realize why he screwed up) isn’t worth consideration because he screwed up. You are, literally, discounting anything said after the fact. You didn’t have any response to the substance of Beinart’s article, you just said he wasn’t worth reading. You can’t pretend to mollify your statements later after writing that, since these writers were capable of “sociopathic declarations,” they should never be listened to again.

    I asked a simple question you didn’t answer: if you’re open-minded enough to reconsider your opinion of these writers if they’ve “learned the bigger lesson,” how the hell should any of us consider this truthful if your first response to any citation of their writing is to bring up how wrong they’ve been before and how you don’t trust anything they write because of it? Square the circle for me here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  69. Tillman says:

    @Rafer Janders: Ugh. Vague claims sourced by policy and Iraq experts, backed up by a frickin’ book written by a guy who was there during the time. Also love how the part you didn’t cite at the beginning was nearly the same schtick wr’s pulling on Beinart as well.

    So, to all the people talking about Green Lanterning Iraq to our way of thinking: is it your position that diplomacy is only possible when you have an army stationed nearby? You consistently cite a lack of leverage, but you fail to notice our economic aid to Iraq, our proven ability to build international consensus to get things done (see Sanctions on Iran), and our proven diplomatic successes elsewhere. (Nasr notes the democratization of Poland after the breakdown of the communist regime in power there.) What is your idea on the effectiveness of diplomacy? And does it matter at all that, despite neocon overexaggeration of our powers to shape the world, America is still probably the nation capable of flexing the most muscle on the world stage?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  70. wr says:

    @Tillman: Beinart has done a lot of soul searching about why he was wrong, and, as writers whom I greatly respect have pointed out recently, still makes the same essential blunder — the belief that the USA, by virtue of its unique wonderfulness, can accomplish anything anywhere in the world if only our leaders believe hard enough. (Both Digby and the writers at LGM do a much better and more respectful job of making this point — I am paraphrasing.)

    So you see, I do not live in a complete vacuum, and neither does Beinart. There is a huge community of writers out there discussing each others’ work, and so I am not completely ignorant of what Beinart says and does these days.

    But ultimately I don’t understand why it’s so important to you that I read this one particular mediocre thinker. I don’t want to make your head explode with righteous indignation, but I don’t read Jonah Goldberg anymore. I did for a while and found everything he said to be stupid to the point of offensiveness. It’s entirely possible that he has changed everything he’s ever claimed to believe in and gone back to school to learn how to make an actual argument… but honestly, my days are short, and I’ve got to make choices in how to spend my hours. Is that epistemic closure as well? Is it less so if I see frequent posts quoting and mocking him and asserting that his writing is much the same as it used to be?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  71. wr says:

    @Tillman: “Obama gives Maliki plenty of rhetorical cover he didn’t have to.”

    I can see a scenario in which Obama publically gives Maliki plenty of rhetorical cover — because it’s important to Iraq that he continue to be see as their legitimate leader — while privately giving him hell. That’s called “diplomacy.”

    Did this happen? Well, I happen to know exactly as much as you and the rest of the “if only Obama was as smart as me!!!” crowd — absolutely nothing. The difference is that I don’t keep insisting that Iraq would be in great shape if only that dummy in the White House had my FP chops.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  72. gVOR08 says:

    I see other polling that says this is like Obamacare. Clear majorities support in detail everything Obama is doing, but still don’t support Obama. This could be due to ignorance. It could be due to Obama’s pragmatic indifference to popularity when he’s not running for office. And I’m sure it’s in large part due to the success of the mighty Right Wing Wurlitzer.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  73. Mikey says:

    @Rafer Janders: Well, that’s a pretty easy dodge. That way you don’t have to actually engage the issue. You can just call me a liar (an accusation upon which you have absolutely nothing to base, by the way)..

    And even if I hadn’t been paying attention until last week, it makes no difference–I could look back through the documented history and reach the same conclusion.

    As could you, if you weren’t so busy carrying Obama’s water.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2