Obama’s Prescience on Iraq
Three weeks ago on “”Meet the Press>,” Tim Russert* highlighted some comments made by then-Illinois State Senator Barrack Obama in October 2002 on the then-impending war with Iraq:
I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda. I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.
Russert gushed, “His judgment was on the money.”
In a comment at PoliBlog (where host Steven Taylor pronounces Obama’s comments “pretty powerful stuff”), Matthew Shuggart observes that Obama was at the time playing a different role and that, had he been a United States Senator, “Given how few stood up to Bush’s rush to disaster at the time, I’d be willing to bet Obama would have voted for it.”
That may well be. John Edwards, the MTP guest who was treated with Obama’s quote, agrees:
Now, I will say, he wasn’t burdened, like a lot of us with the information that we were receiving on the Intelligence Committee. And as members of the United States Senate, we were getting very intimate, detailed information about what was actually happening in Iraq. Senator Obama, I think, you—what’d you say?–was a state senator at the time. So he obviously wasn’t, wasn’t in the Congress and wasn’t part of the—of the decision making. But a lot of those predictions turned out to be true.
As Shugart observes, we will, of course, never know how Obama would have voted were he in the same position as Edwards and Clinton.
Still, as Mark Kleiman observes, “Obama was right for the right reason: he asked some very penetrating questions about the likely aftermath of an invasion. As an Illinois State Senator, he knew about the risk of civil strife among Iraq’s Shi’a, Sunnis, and Kurds.” While that strife might have been avoided with different decision-making on the part of the Bush administration and its senior decision-makers in Iraq in the early months, it obviously emerged. Being right for the right reasons on arguably the most important issue of the decade does indeed give Obama some foreign policy credibility that junior Senators typically lack.
*Correction: The original post had the Obama quote on this morning’s edition when it was in fact on the February 4th edition.