There’s been a lot of talk about how Obama has flipped on a host of positions in order to justify the Libyan war. Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s fact-checker, has bequeathed to Obama the first ever “Upside Down Pinocchio” in honor of the administration’s staggering reversals. But Kessler leaves off a major switch (a switch for the better, I might add).
During the campaign, Obama was asked by the AP about claims that an immediate withdrawal from Iraq would result in potentially genocidal mass killings and ethnic cleansing. He responded:
“Well, look, if that’s the criteria by which we are making decisions on the deployment of U.S. forces, then by that argument you would have 300,000 troops in the Congo right now — where millions have been slaughtered as a consequence of ethnic strife — which we haven’t done,” Obama said in an interview with The Associated Press.
“We would be deploying unilaterally and occupying the Sudan, which we haven’t done. Those of us who care about Darfur don’t think it would be a good idea,” he said.
Obama, a first-term senator from Illinois, said it’s likely there would be increased bloodshed if U.S. forces left Iraq.
“Nobody is proposing we leave precipitously. There are still going to be U.S. forces in the region that could intercede, with an international force, on an emergency basis,” Obama said between stops on the first of two days scheduled on the New Hampshire campaign trail. “There’s no doubt there are risks of increased bloodshed in Iraq without a continuing U.S. presence there.”
The greater risk is staying in Iraq, Obama said.
“It is my assessment that those risks are even greater if we continue to occupy Iraq and serve as a magnet for not only terrorist activity but also irresponsible behavior by Iraqi factions,” he said.
It’s worth pointing out a key difference between the potential genocide in Iraq and the heart-wrenching slaughters in Congo and Sudan: The latter aren’t our fault. But if genocide unfolds in Iraq after American troops depart, it would be hard to argue that we weren’t at least partly to blame. Yes, the mass murder would have more immediate authors than the United States of America, but we would undeniably be responsible, at least in part, for giving a green light to genocide. Obama offers precisely that green light in his proposed Iraq War De-escalation Act.
So, as a candidate, the current president took a principled stand for non-interventionism when it comes to genocide in places like Congo and Sudan. He even took a principled stand in favor of affirmative steps by the U.S. military to facilitate genocide in Iraq. I think those positions range from needlessly hardhearted to plain awful, particularly for a liberal. So I am glad Obama has flipped positions on genocide.
What is amazing to me is not that so many liberals support Obama as he intervenes in Libya today, but that so few had any problem with Obama coming out for doing nothing in the face of American-facilitated mass-murder back then.