News / USA

Iraq Casts Giant Political Shadow

President Barack Obama speaks about the situation in Iraq, June 19, 2014, in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. President Barack Obama speaks about the situation in Iraq, June 19, 2014, in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House.
President Barack Obama speaks about the situation in Iraq, June 19, 2014, in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House.
President Barack Obama speaks about the situation in Iraq, June 19, 2014, in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House.
It’s long been said that the shadow of Iraq will follow the presidency of George W. Bush into history.  Now it appears the same could be looming for President Barack Obama.
Iraq continues to consume official Washington at the moment and already it seems we are in the early stages of a ‘Who Lost Iraq’ debate, with Republicans and Democrats pointing fingers at each other.
President Barack Obama has announced steps to secure the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, send in up to 300 U.S. military trainers to help Iraqi government forces and called on the Iraqi government to undertake reforms and become more inclusive.
The president also noted that there has been a resurgence of the divisive political debate over Iraq in the U.S. and said his administration will continue to ask “hard questions” in advance of any consideration about future U.S. military involvement in Iraq.  Mr. Obama made clear that U.S. ground forces will not be sent back into battle.  He told reporters at the White House, “American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again.  Ultimately, this is something that is going to have to be solved by Iraqis."
Weakening Poll Numbers
The Iraq crisis comes as a new Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll found President Obama’s approval rating on a sharply negative trajectory.  41 percent approve of the president’s job performance, tying a previous low.  On foreign policy, the poll found support at a new low for the president, down to 37 percent.  Foreign policy has been one of the president’s political strengths, especially after the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.  But in recent months the administration has been forced to deal with a long list of overseas challenges including Ukraine, Syria and the wind-down of the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan.
Polls show declining public confidence in the administration’s foreign policy in general and Republicans have been quick to go on the attack, including Republican House Speaker John Boehner.  “You look at this presidency and you can’t help but get the sense that the wheels are coming off.”
Former Vice President Dick Cheney also weighed in, ratcheting up the political heat.  Cheney and his daughter Liz argued in the Wall Street Journal that President Obama’s foreign policy has weakened the U.S. and emboldened America’s enemies, especially in dealing with Iraq and a renewed threat from al-Qaida.  The Cheney’s wrote: “Rarely has a president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.”
Unexpectedly, the Cheney’s were grilled about that comment on the Fox News Channel, usually a friendly haven for conservatives.  Many Democrats have also spoken out against the former vice president and his role in advocating the U.S. of invasion of Iraq back in 2003.
On the Defensive
On one hand, the Obama administration correctly cites polls that Americans are not interested in another war in the Middle East right now.  But the low 37 percent approval rating for the president’s handling of foreign policy also suggests Americans would like to see something done, not only on Iraq but in dealing with the situation in Ukraine and with a resurgent Russia.  Several foreign policy analysts argue that many Americans are sick of paying the price for lengthy overseas wars but also hate to see their role as the world’s pre-eminent power in decline.
One key question for the Obama administration moving forward on Iraq is what exactly will U.S. voters support?  More military trainers?  Limited air strikes?  Increased help for the Iraqi government?  In a post-9-11 world these questions are not easily answered.  President Obama knows this all too well.  He ran for the presidency in 2008 in part to change U.S. outreach to the world in the wake of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  He won the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 in no small part because he was able to draw a contrast with Hillary Clinton, who supported the Iraq war while a senator from New York.
Impact on Clinton
The Iraq crisis flared just as Hillary Clinton began her much anticipated book tour to promote “Hard Choices”, the memoir of her tenure as Mr. Obama’s secretary of State during his first term.  In the book, Clinton says she now sees her vote in favor of the Iraq war as a mistake.  She writes:  “I wasn’t alone in getting it wrong.  But I still got it wrong.  Plain and simple.”  Obviously if Clinton decides to run for president in 2016, she hopes anti-war activists within the Democratic Party will finally forgive her for that vote.
In her book, Clinton also seeks to remind readers of the challenges the administration faced in the early days of Mr. Obama’s time in office, when the focus was a complete overhaul of how the U.S. interacted with the rest of the world.  Clinton says she won’t decide on a presidential run until next year, but if she does, Clinton supporters say the book will serve as a nifty reminder of her transformation from domestic political figure to world celebrity and now a clear frontrunner not only for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2016 but for the White House as well.
But a lot of things can happen between now and then, assuming Clinton decides to become a candidate.  Already there have been a few rocky moments during the Hillary book tour.  She had to walk back some comments about how she and former President Bill Clinton were “dead broke” after they left the White House early in 2001, largely because of huge legal bills.  She also got into a testy debate with a show host on National Public Radio about how and why she came to support same sex marriage.
Clinton was riding high in the polls ever since she left the State Department in early 2013, giving a series of paid speeches and engaging in the occasional Q+A with audiences.  But in launching the book tour she re-entered the political spotlight and that means less control over questions from the media and infinitely more opportunities to chat about issues she hasn’t had to address publicly in a long time.
The latest Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll contains mixed news for Clinton should she decide to seek the presidency two years from now.  55 percent of those surveyed agreed with the notion that she is “knowledgeable and experienced enough to handle the presidency.”  Other recent polls show Clinton to be a huge favorite for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, far outpacing Vice President Joe Biden and a few other Democrats who are less well-known around the country.
But on the flip side, the latest Journal-NBC poll found that only 38 percent rate her highly for “being honest and straightforward.”  37 percent said there was no chance they would vote for her for president in 2016.
It’s still way too early to know how Clinton might fare if she makes a presidential bid.  And it’s foolish to predict now what issues will drive the debate in late 2015 and early 2016 when the presidential campaign gets underway.  But it is likely that we will hear more from Republicans about the Obama administration’s foreign policy in general and its handling of Iraq in particular, with even scrutiny of Hillary Clinton’s stewardship of U.S. foreign policy during the president’s first term.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Not Again from: Canada
June 22, 2014 10:57 AM
Once again we see a tremendous level of outright deliberate memory loss, on the part of the quite a few, by somehow trying to put the blame of all the ills on the planet on Pres Obama. Such an approach doees not stand to the facts, or reason, and it is very biased.
It is quite clear, in my opinion, that negative campaigns, against Pres Obama, are deliberately fabricated to have his opponents better their standings wrt the upcoming elections and not be routed by Democracts. The unfortunate part is that negative campaigns do appear to work, especially when you do not have a well informed electorate, and some are not willing to be fair minded, and they are biased against the administration, no matter what the administration does.
Each one of the negative issues, on/in foreign policy, that the current administration faces, are issues that his Republican predecessors worked on for years, to no avail or progress, at a tremendous cost of US/Allied human lives and treasury expenditures. Notwithstanding the massive resource expenditures, not only did Pres Obama's predessesors failed to correct the problems, but in fact they greately agravated the outcomes. And now, many of the same politicians/strategists are trying to push the current administration into the continuation of the same policies/strategies, that agravated the situation and failed to produce sustainable positive results.
Most of the conflicts observed, are civil wars. Civil wars have as a minimum at least four components: multi-ethnic/religeous state with one ethnic group in-charge; an underlying negative economic component; a failing security component; and a political component. The security component can be temporarily resolved by the application of external force, as it was done by previous Republican administtrations. The political component must be resolved by the conflicted parties, by equitably sharring power; and the same applies to the economic component, by equitably sharring the wealth of the country.
The application of force by external or even internal forces, in a civil war, is a bandaid temporary solution, but not an end state solution. In most cases, multi-ethnic states do not survive crisis situations, other than by massive oppresion, which is not sustainable for many decades in any case. Past US/Allied administrations applied massive forces to Iraq, and they did partially stabilize the country, but failed to resolve the underlying political/ economic issues, it was not theirs to resolve. If the political leaders of Iraq are not willing to resolve their political/economic issues, more application of force, by the US/Allies will also not work now, any better than under the Rep[ublican administration. The Obama administration's approach to the Iraq civil war is proper, upfront power sharrring need; unfortunately the previous administrations agravated the situation so far, that it may not be recoverable.
Much the same applies to many of the other civil war types of conflicts we see around the globe. Their root cause was the legacy of the dastardly un-natural imperial borders, created to split/weaken various ethnic groups, so that the empires could control them; thus the tendency for these countries to fracture. AND NONE OF IT IS OBAMA'S, or the Democrats, or even the US' FAULT, no more than if a volcano goes off in a far away place! Many of these countries need to fracture, as we saw in the Balkans, and now we are starting to see positive results.

by: Mr George from: Georgetown
June 22, 2014 1:34 AM
Has this been written by a high school sophomore? I've seen college admission essays with a better grasp of sentence construction and narrative flow. US tax dollars actually subsidize this crap? What a joke.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs