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Barack Obama is fairly sure he's learned the lesson of the Iraq War, even if Republican presidential candidates are still working on figuring out what it was (Lesson: Stop asking about 2003 and blame Obama). In an interview with The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg published Thursday, Obama notes that he thought the Iraq war was a bad idea in 2003 -- even knowing what we knew then.


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He also blamed the rise of ISIS on the unwillingness of the Iraqi government to actually govern the whole population:

I’m very clear on the lessons of Iraq. I think it was a mistake for us to go in in the first place, despite the incredible efforts that were made by our men and women in uniform. Despite that error, those sacrifices allowed the Iraqis to take back their country. That opportunity was squandered by Prime Minister Maliki and the unwillingness to reach out effectively to the Sunni and Kurdish populations.

Also, too, get ready to hear a whole lot of crying from the usual suspects about Obama's contention that the fall of the Iraqi city of Ramadi to ISIS is a "tactical setback," but not a sign that "we're losing" against ISIS in Iraq. He noted that the Iraqi government was doing much better against ISIS in the north, where Kurdish forces have made progress, but that the Sunni areas of the country aren't as committed to the government -- a legacy of Maliki's neglect. Which is probably a good analysis, but not nearly as easy to explain as just insisting that we need to be dropping more bombs.

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Obama rejected the notion that everything in Iraq would be just dandy if only we'd kept 10,000 or more troops there in 2010 in opposition to the wishes of the Iraqi government:

It is important to have a clear idea of the past because we don’t want to repeat mistakes. I know that there are some in Republican quarters who have suggested that I’ve overlearned the mistake of Iraq, and that, in fact, just because the 2003 invasion did not go well doesn’t argue that we shouldn’t go back in. And one lesson that I think is important to draw from what happened is that if the Iraqis themselves are not willing or capable to arrive at the political accommodations necessary to govern, if they are not willing to fight for the security of their country, we cannot do that for them.

He said that he would keep Americans in Iraq to train Iraqi forces, and that the new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, is "sincere and committed to an inclusive Iraqi state," but that there's a lot more to building a stable country than just killing bad guys, which is probably the kind of sissy nuance that prompted expert bad-guy-hater Louie Gohmert to insist that Obama is actually on the side of the enemy.

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But Obama also said that the real lesson of Iraq is that the United States can't just stomp into a Middle Eastern country and assume that we'll make freedom and democracy happen:

But we can’t do it for them, and one of the central flaws I think of the decision back in 2003 was the sense that if we simply went in and deposed a dictator, or simply went in and cleared out the bad guys, that somehow peace and prosperity would automatically emerge, and that lesson we should have learned a long time ago.

Unfortunately, Obama didn't have any easy answers about what to do in Iraq and Syria, instead saying that the U.S. really needs to "find effective partners" in the region, as well as building an "atmosphere in which people across sectarian lines are willing to compromise and are willing to work together" -- which doesn't at all sound like bombing the hell out of bad guys, which as we all know is how you really bring peace (and compliancy) to foreign lands.

[The Atlantic / TPM]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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