What could possibly account for this mind-blowingly high number of comments on a piece by a guy who got a job as a columnist because he was a speechwriter (read: professional bullshitter) for George W. Bush? A screed written from a parallel universe where President Obama made two huge mistakes:
"First, he withdrew all U.S. forces from Iraq — allowing the defeated terrorists to regroup and reconstitute themselves.
"Second, he failed to support the moderate, pro-Western opposition in neighboring Syria — creating room for ISIS to fill the security vacuum. ISIS [Islamic State of Syria and Iraq] took over large swaths of Syrian territory, established a safe haven, used it to recruit and train thousands of jihadists, and prepared their current offensive in Iraq."
As has already been documented, Obama withdrew U.S. forces from Iraq in exact accordance with the Status of Forces Agreement signed in 2008 by George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. As the deadline for withdrawal approached, it was clear that Maliki did not want to extend it.
Whenever someone blames Obama for withdrawing the last U.S. soldiers from Iraq in 2011, that person is simultaneously saying that (A) Obama should have broken the Status of Forces of Agreement, which would have been a major violation of international norms; not to mention damaging to U.S. credibility, and (B) it may have been necessary for a few more Americans to die in Iraq for the sake of breaking the agreement, but while presumably -- but not definitely -- keeping the peace.
If you think these are acceptable things to advocate, congratulations, you can write for the Washington Post.
Thiessen's second point is a classic lament of the armchair hawk who envisions himself as the first ever grand strategist capable of molding the Middle East into stable, American-friendly states with an indefinite peace. The idea that Obama could have jumped headlong into the Syrian shit-show starring Bashar al-Assad, the radical jihadist group ISIS that's causing the trouble in Iraq right now, and a loose alliance of questionably "pro-Western" rebels, and come out clean on the other end is a joke.
The fact is, Obama could've rained down airstrikes on Assad strongholds while funneling weapons to these unnamed "pro-Western" rebels (which could easily find their way into the hands of ISIS or Assad's forces), and the whole thing still would have been a major and possibly disastrous crapshoot.
"Maddening" doesn't begin to describe Thiessen's analysis. The same can be said for recent assessments by Dick Cheney, and Lindsey Graham, and John McCain, and L. Paul Bremer, and Bill Kristol, and all of the other assholes who said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and that they knew where they were, and that proof of it might come in the form of a mushroom cloud, and that Iraq had ties to al Qaeda, and that the U.S. would be greeted as liberators, and that the war would pay for itself. All of that turned out to be utter bullshit, not in a horoscope kind of way, but in a there-were-32,000-American-and-more-than-100,000-Iraqi-casualties-kind-of-way. And now these buffoons have the gall to throw up their arms and say that if only Obama had gotten Iraq right we wouldn't be having all this trouble there now?
Once again this speaks to the total lack of meritocracy in the world of punditry. It's true Thiessen wasn't in the Bush administration at the launch of the war, but it's very clear he supported the effort in the first place. And if he doesn't think that Bush's invasion had everything to do with the state Iraq is in now, then he clearly fits right in as a Washington Post columnist.