Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama opposed the surge in Iraq from the beginning. CNN’s John King asked a fabulous question late in last night’s debate. From the transcript:

I want you to look at Iraq now and listen to those who say the security situation is better. Ideal? No, but better, some say significantly. In recent days, even some steps toward the political reconciliation. Is Iraq today better off than it was six months or a year ago because of the surge?

Hillary Clinton provided the first non-answer in exactly the way Charles Krauthammer said she would. First from Krauthammer: “From Nancy Pelosi to Barack Obama, the talking point is the same: Sure, there is military progress. We could have predicted that. (They in fact had predicted the opposite, but no matter.) But it’s all pointless unless you get national reconciliation.” Now from Clinton:

The rationale of the surge was to create the space and time for the Iraqi government to make the decisions that only it can make. Now, there is no doubt, given the skill and the commitment of our young men and women in uniform, that putting more of them in will give us a tactical advantage and will provide security in some places. And that has occurred. But the fact is that the purpose of it has not been fulfilled. The Iraqi government has slowly inched toward making a few of the decisions in a less than complete way, but it hasn’t taken advantage of the sacrifice and the losses of life and billions of dollars that have occurred since the surge began.

As Krauthammer points out though this “highly legalistic” response ignores the real political progress Iraq has made. The Iraqi parliament recently passed laws that: 1) allow pro-American Anbar sheiks to become the legitimate rulers of their provinces; 2) grant partial amnesty for many Sunni prisoners; and 3) passed a national budget that includes allocation of oil revenue. As far from reality as Clinton’s answer was though, Obama’s was even worse. talking about the surge Obama said:

But this is a tactical victory imposed upon a huge strategic blunder. And I think that, when we’re having a debate with John McCain, it is going to be much easier for the candidate who was opposed to the concept of invading Iraq in the first place to have a debate about the wisdom of that decision than having to argue about the tactics subsequent to the decision.

So in the general election Obama wants to have a debate about a decision that was made in 2002, not decisions that a Commander in Chief will have to make in 2009. The next Commander in Chief will be faced with tactical decision about what to do in Iraq now, not what should have been done in 2002. Now Obama has based his campaign on the fantastic idea that he single handedly change the way Washington works, but even he has not claimed to have invented time travel. When he does, then, yes, by all means we should debate about whether the U.S. should have removed Saddam Hussein from power in 2002. Until then, the antiwar movement must be forced to answer questions “about the tactics subsequent to the decision” to invade. And the first question they must answer is why they were so wrong about the surge.

Quick Hits:

  • Muqtada al-Sadr announced Friday that he will extend a cease-fire order that has been widely credited with bringing the Iraqi death toll down more than 60% in recent months.
  • New simulations carried out by European Union experts show Iran could have enough highly enriched uranium to build an atomic bomb by the end of this year.
  • Britain and France introduced a measure to the Security Council on Thursday to began formal consideration of a new resolution on Iran’s nuclear program that imposes restrictions on cargo to and from Iran, travel bans, the freezing of assets for people involved in the program and tightened monitoring of Iranian financial institutions.
  • The Pentagon will share whatever information it can with China about a crippled U.S. spy satellite that was shot down by the U.S. military.
  • In the wake of the writer’s strike more and more writers are abandoning the union-studio relationship and are signing their own deals with venture capitalists, equity firms, and advertisers.