Sunday, June 22, 2014

Oh That Joe!

You'd think Vice President Biden would keep a low profile given events in Iraq, but no:

As Iraq edges toward chaos, Joe Biden is having a quiet I-told-you-so moment.

In 2006, Biden was a senator from Delaware gearing up for a presidential campaign when he proposed that Iraq be divided into three semi-independent regions for Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. Follow his plan, he said, and U.S. troops could be out by early 2008. Ignore it, he warned, and Iraq would devolve into sectarian conflict that could destabilize the whole region.

The Bush administration chose to ignore Biden. Now, eight years later, the vice president's doom-and-gloom prediction seems more than a little prescient.

So let me get this straight:

Then-Senator Biden predicts in 2006 doom unless we divide Iraq into three semi-independent regions and withdraw from Iraq by early 2008. I explained why this was a bad idea then.

By late 2008, it was clear we had achieved a battlefield victory because of the 2007 Surge offensive and Awakening defection of the Sunni Arabs to our side.

Indeed, by the end of 2007 I was able to compare the level of unity in Iraq under the post-Surge Offensive Iraqi government favorably to the unity that Saddam had imposed by brute force.

In 2010, Iraq was so peaceful that Vice President Biden claimed that Iraq could be "one of the great achievements" of the Obama administration.

Silly me, I thought by owning the war with that statement, the administration would be more interested in defending our gains. While Iraq ranks right up there alongside other administration outcomes abroad, "achievement" isn't the metric.

But I digress.

Despite the success, rather than expend the relatively small effort needed to increase chances of success, in 2011 we left Iraq without any American military presence to keep the military development on track, hunt al Qaeda in Iraq, reassure the factions within Iraq, and deter Iran.

Vice President Biden could well boast, given that he was designated the administration point man on keeping Iraq afloat.

But now that Iraq is experiencing increased internal divisions as well as a jihadi and Baathist counter-offensive, Vice President Biden says this outcome proves he is "prescient?"

Got it.

Is this really how the vice president wants to defend his reputation? By claiming he was prophetic? As the expression goes, I do not think that word means what he thinks it means. Pathetic, is more like it. Robert Gates is not rebutted by this line of defense.

I can't believe the vice president's people are still flogging this absurd notion.

In a way, I suppose the vice president is right since a divided Iraq in 2008 without the Surge offensive and Awakening that took place in 2007 between his initial call in 2006 and his departure date of 2008 would not have been peaceful or a good outcome for us or Iraqis--the current condition.

If you need another piece of evidence for the folly of Vice President Biden boasting of his so-called vindication and prescience, Fareed Zakaria is still in favor of the idea.

We won the war. President Obama is losing the peace. But all is not lost. Don't panic over reversals. By definition, those too are reversible.

President Obama should send Vice President Biden, as our point man on Iraq, to Iraq so the vice president can put his money where his mouth is and hammer out an agreement between the factions to resolve political differences and undo the damage Iraq has experienced by maximizing our assistance to help the Iraqi government defeat ISIS and the Baathists, and keep Iran's influence down.

It is not too late to help the Iraqi government win this war and get back on the path of being a great--if perhaps the only--foreign achievement of this administration.