A Strategic Retreat?

We wrote here about Barack Obama’s Iraq dilemma. He has ridden the Democratic Party’s defeatism to a virtual lock on the Presidential nomination, even as events in Iraq have proved his defeatism wrong. So what is he to do in anticipation of the general election, in which defeatism, on the most optimistic assumptions, will not be as popular as in the Democratic primaries?

This morning, the editorial board of the Washington Post, in my view the most respectable voice of the Democratic Party, acknowledged the surge’s success and urged Obama to re-think his Iraq policy:

If the positive trends continue, proponents of withdrawing most U.S. troops, such as Mr. Obama, might be able to responsibly carry out further pullouts next year. Still, the likely Democratic nominee needs a plan for Iraq based on sustaining an improving situation, rather than abandoning a failed enterprise. That will mean tying withdrawals to the evolution of the Iraqi army and government, rather than an arbitrary timetable; Iraq’s 2009 elections will be crucial. It also should mean providing enough troops and air power to continue backing up Iraqi army operations such as those in Basra and Sadr City. When Mr. Obama floated his strategy for Iraq last year, the United States appeared doomed to defeat. Now he needs a plan for success.

The Post’s advice coincides with what looks like an attempt by Obama to walk back his pessimism, at least partially. His senior strategist, David Axelrod, denied that Obama had ever asserted that the surge would produce no good results. That denial was plainly false, as this video shows:

But consistency is not the cardinal virtue in a Presidential candidate. It may be that Obama is coming around to the view that he needs to “plan for success,” as the Post put it. If so, it can only be a good thing–which doesn’t mean that Republicans should forget that Obama was entirely wrong on the most important foreign policy issue that has arisen during his brief Senate tenure.

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