Thursday, March 24, 2011

Would Obama Have Voted to Invade Iraq? Probably

During the Democratic primaries, then-Senator Obama made opposition to the Iraq War a centerpiece of his campaign. He repeatedly condemned the invasion and even said that the use of military force under those circumstances violated the Constitution. As Jacob Sullum of Reason observes:
In a December 2007 survey of presidential candidates, Obama told The Boston Globe, "The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."
Today, however, President Obama has nuanced his position:
The White House said the president's actions don't contradict his earlier views, noting that the president met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers regarding Libya before any action took place.

A senior administration official said that the 2007 comment envisioned "an invasion like we saw in Iraq. A mission of this kind, which is time-limited, well-defined, and discrete, clearly falls within the President's constitutional authority."
During the Democratic Primaries Bill Clinton said that Obama's antiwar stance was a "fairytale." Many media outlets distorted that comment and suggested that Clinton described Obama's entire campaign as a fairytale. This distortion then sparked accusations that Clinton was a racist. The furor of Clinton's alleged racism deflected attention from the actual substance of the former president's observation -- that Obama is not as dovish as he portrayed himself.

Recently, the New York Times reported that several of Obama's senior staff, namely, Hillary Clinton, Samantha Power and Susan Rice, convinced him to use military force against Libya. When Bush pressed Congress to approve the use of military force against Iraq, 29 Senate Democrats voted to approve the measure. The list of Senators includes many close advisers to Obama, such as Hillary Clinton, Obama's Secretary of State; Joe Biden, Obama's Vice President; Tom Daschle, Obama's initial choice for Secretary of Health and Human Services; and John Kerry, an early Obama supporter and adviser. If three of President Obama's advisers could convince him to use military force against Libya in the absence of an imminent threat to the United States, it is also likely that influential Senate Democrats could have motivated him to support the use of force against Iraq. Obama has also escalated the war in Afghanistan -- a mission he has always admitted to supporting.

Obama made an astute political calculation to portray himself as an antiwar candidate during the Democratic Primaries. At the time, most of the country -- especially liberal Democrats -- opposed the invasion of Iraq. Because Obama and Clinton had virtually identical positions on most issues, he needed to distinguish himself from her in order to gain attention. His so-called opposition to the invasion of Iraq gave him the perfect narrative to win the nomination. In sum, Obama was a smart politician. Reverend Wright was absolutely correct when he described candidate Obama as a "politician." Nonetheless, Wright was vigorously condemned for this observation. Today, however, his words on this subject are unassailable.


Aeneas said...

Greetings, Professor! Long time since I've been around. However, my DD alerts told me that you haven't been around your blog that much either. Anyway, interesting analysis--cool and logical, without all that frothing. I've been listening to people around me (true, not a representative section of the country by any stretch of the imagination) and as far as the Lybian intervention is concerned, the best way to describe it--they are CONFUSED. And uneasy. I consider myself rather well informed (in foreign affairs) but I have to admit that I am not a little dizzy with all the 'clarity' I am getting. ***cynical view going full thrusters***

I do look forward to hearing more on your thoughts on what's unfolding.

Joyce L. Arnold said...

Glad to see the post.

I was thinking, again, about the Bill Clinton "fairytale" comment the other day, as I have fairly often since Obama moved into the WH. Not surprisingly, Bill wasn't telling tales. Unfortunately.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Hi, Aeneas. Great to see you! I have been really busy with teaching and professional writing. I am having a great academic year. Unfortunately, to do so, required me to slow down with the blogging. I am not shutting it down, however. You can also look for me on Huffington -- where I occasionally post.

Anonymous said...

Reverend Wright was absolutely correct when he described candidate Obama as a "politician."

That he was.

Obama is like the Peter Sellers' character from Being There, the gardener who, by his virtue of having no distinctive views or ideas, serves as a blank slate for all kinds of projections from people around him.

But while Chance-the gardener is really innocent, Obama's blank-slateness is calculated and purposely cultivated to bring him the greatest benefit.

liberal dissent said...

While I agree with most of what you posted, I think it's very unlikely that we would have gone to war in Iraq if Obama had been President at the time, simply because the impetus for that war came from the White House, not the Senate.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Liberal Dissent: I am not sure whether he would have STARTED the war, but I am fairly certain that had he been a Senator, he would have supported it. How many positions has he taken that are outside of the mainstream?

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