Why am I writing in opposition to Obama instead of writing in support of McCain?
Quite simply, McCain is a known entity. There’s lots of reasons not to like him, and they’re all scattered about the public record for all to see. The guy is pretty much WYSIWYG. It’s a waste of time to write about him. But Obama is a mystery, an invented fantasy character. He has no virtually no public record and in fact has never held a job other than a few years as Senator (state and federal). The fascination with him is astonishing to me.
Moreover, I’m a contrarian. I don’t just get in line with the popular people to do the popular things because they’re popular. And when I see people going along with the popular things, I get suspicious. Sometimes, in the case of Apple fans, the popular people are snotty pricks, but they’re right. Other times, as with the Ridiculously Large SUV craze, people are just plain dumb.
Thus the series on Obama.
This installment is about judgment. One of the Obama campaign’s top selling points is judgment, probably because they know they’re screwed on experience. We’re supposed to believe that Obama’s track record of making sound judgments is a key differentiator in his favor.
But is it?
Issue 1: The Invasion
Lacking a track record of decisions on substantive issues in general, the most cited singular judgment we’re supposed to go on is Obama’s steadfast opposition to the war in Iraq.
But is that opposition a case of sound judgment?
Let me take you back.
At the time of the invasion, Obama was a state Senator in Chicago. Whatever privilege that title confers, it probably did not provide him with secret information about Iraq’s WMD programs.
That means that Obama was privy to the same information that the US Congress and the governments of Europe possessed. Namely,
- That Iraq likely possessed some quantity of WMD as well as probably maintaining ongoing programs to further develop WMD capability, including nuclear arms
- That Iraq had a history of cozy relationships with a number of Islamist organizations with strong anti-American sentiment
- That Iraq would soon fall out from under UN sanction and scrutiny, providing it ample opportunity to further develop its weapons programs
- That Iraq’s ruler and his two heirs were sworn enemies of the United States and completely unpredictable genocidal megalomaniacs
Forgive my rehashment of the arguments supporting the invasion of Iraq, but it seems that most people have forgotten them by now. Because, as it turned out, we did not find any WMD in Iraq, many people to forget the facts available at the time. We also carelessly forget that failure to find WMD does not mean that Iraq was harmless, since it had previously had a very strong WMD program and, once out from under UN scrutiny, would surely have redeveloped its program, making a future invasion very likely, and far more dangerous.
If there are any doubts about the potential for danger, just imagine Kim Jung Il sitting on 1/5 of the world’s proven oil reserves, and I think you might get a sense.
The point is that virtually everyone was in agreement that Iraq was a very dangerous regime. The only question was – should we invade, or let it be?
There are two kinds of people in America:
Millions of people on the left and in the center who were able to set politics aside just knew we were going to find at least some kind of cache of something bad.
Some people on far left hoped we’d find nothing – even though failure to discover weapons would hurt the credibility of the US.
I wonder which camp Obama was in?
In Obama’s judgment, the singular, solitary judgment that we’re supposed to think qualifies him to become Leader of the Free World, the danger posed by Iraq did not warrant an offensive action. Yet neither Obama (nor any other war critic) ever offered even one possible solution to the problem. Aside from war, every other option had an end-game that included Saddam remaining in power, ultimately out from under UN scrutiny, and able to resume his arms race.
Where was Obama with the Really Bright Idea for getting rid of that guy?
See, it’s easy to be anti-invasion when you’re a state Senator with a left-wing base. Nobody is going to blame you when the dirty bomb hits Boston. And, not being a world leader, you’re under no particular obligation to come up with even one reasonable alternative solution.
Let’s not kid ourselves by the magic of hindsight. No, we didn’t find WMD. Surely, the honest reader must concede that it’s just as likely that instead of bupkis, we might have found a stockpile of sarin or mustard gas in Iraq.
But in Barack Obama’s judgment, the invasion and occupation of Iraq would not have been worthwhile even if we had found WMD.
See, Obama can’t take credit for "knowing" that there wouldn’t be WMD when we invaded. Hell, even Dominique de Villepin (who is a man) agreed that Iraq probably had some undiscovered WMD, and he was leading the UN lobby to remove sanctions in the late 90s.
On the day that he put forth his judgment against the invasion, Obama made his statement against the war in these words:
I … know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States.
If, in fact, Obama really believed that, then that was a lucky guess. It was not made with secret information hidden from the rest of the world but privy only to state Senators in Illinois. If we had found even a small cache of WMD, then believe me, you wouldn’t even know the name "Obama" today. He would be "the guy that voted to let Saddam Hussein get away with it." But, lucky for Obama, we didn’t find any..
[I know] that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.
Perhaps Obama, as a state Senator, was not aware that the international community had no desire to continue to contain Saddam Hussein, and was strongly lobbying to remove the sanctions and inspection regime. But it’s clearly in the record.
Most importantly, Obama was still living in a September 10th world when he said this. 9/11 proved incontrovertibly that petty dictators willing to work with terrorist organizations could not be contained. They don’t have to send an army halfway around the world to threaten you. All they need to do is prop up a couple dozen guys willing to fly planes into tall buildings.
Or mix up a bunch of smuggled sarin precursors.
No, Obama has to take credit for his judgment this way:
I opposed the war in Iraq knowing full well that Iraq had ties to many known terrorist groups and believing that it possessed a large arsenal of very dangerous weapons. In my judgment, disarming Iraq and deposing Saddam was not worth the risk of a very deadly attack on the United States. In my judgment, the United States would have been better off accepting that risk rather than spending money and lives to eliminate it and at the same time bring the promise of freedom to 25 million people living under a brutal dictatorship and the oppression of the sanctions that would be required to attempt to contain the danger.
I think the record is clear. Obama’s steadfast opposition to the war in Iraq can only be described as a set of serious errors in judgment which only accidentally turned out to have some validity.
And that gets to the point. With Obama, it isn’t about judgment. It’s about damn good luck. And he seems to have plenty of that.
I can see it now:
GET LUCKY! VOTE OBAMA!
Issue 2: The Surge
But, as it turns out, his luck (and judgment) failed him in the other Big Decision on Iraq: the troop surge. Obama voted against the surge. We’re supposed to believe that this was good judgment, presumably because, since the war shouldn’t have been fought to begin with, the consequences of retreat and the subsequent collapse of Iraq are irrelevant.
I don’t need to write much on this point. Clearly, Obama was wrong. The surge has been a tremendous success. It appears that Iraq has probably turned the corner, thanks to our willingness to step up.
Voting against the surge was bad – nay, dangerous – judgment.
Issue 3: Pullout
The sister issue to Issue 2, Obama’s insistence that the US pull out of Iraq immediately and without regard to the situation on the ground would clearly have been a disaster. Not only would Iraq have fallen into utter chaos – which would, inevitably, require the USA to straighten out – but also the credibility of our country would have been laid to rest.
At least our willingness to stay the course in Iraq and make it work shows that we have the resolve to finish what we started and pay whatever cost is necessary. Pulling out would have been the death blow to our foreign stature: not only do we invade, but then we fail and leave behind a complete cesspool.
On retreat and pullout, Obama was completely wrong. Case three of inadequate judgment.
Issue 4: Pakistan
Obama has rallied around the populist position that we should have devoted more resources in Afghanistan, to find and catch Osama bin Laden.
However, Obama could put a million-man army in Afghanistan and not catch bin Laden. That’s because bin Laden is not in Afghanistan. He’s in Pakistan. When this was pointed out to Obama, he declared that he would invade Pakistan and find bin Laden.
For starters, do we have a UN Resolution authorizing an invasion of Pakistan? I think not. Would Obama be able to get one? No way in hell. So the invasion would be, in the parlance of the left, "illegal." Not good.
But beyond that, does Obama have any freaking idea how dangerous an invasion of Pakistan would be? This is a country with a very virulent and sizeable anti-American Islamist minority.
And nuclear weapons.
Hello? Nightmare scenario, anyone?
I’d love to catch bin Laden. Put him in the chair, and I’d personally flip the switch. But as gratifying as that would be, there are some things more important than catching him. Ensuring that Pakistan’s nukes don’t fall into the hands of some of his buddies, for starters. What we really don’t need to do is to give Pakistan’s Islamist nutcases enough ammunition to topple their government and seize the nukes.
On invading Pakistan, Obama shows very dangerous judgment.
So, on the only truly important national security issues on which Obama has taken a position, it is c
lear that his judgment is seriously, profoundly amiss. Best case, he’s kinda lucky. Worst case: disaster.
Next up: energy policy.