Opinion

Americans won't blame President Obama for Iraq's deterioration

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Philip Klein,Barack Obama,Iraq,Polls,George W. Bush

As Sunni terrorists make gains in Iraq, it's triggered a political debate in the United States not only about what to do, but also over who is to blame for the country's deterioration. Is it President George W. Bush for invading in the first place, or President Obama for mishandling the withdrawal? Whatever the merits of the case against Obama, conservatives should realize that no matter how bad things get, Americans are very unlikely to blame him for what's happening.

The public isn't focused, say, on the nuances of Obama’s negotiations on the status of forces agreement with Iraq. Most likely, they see the current violence in Iraq as totally expected, and are just glad American soldiers aren’t in the middle of it.

A CNN/ORC poll taken in December 2011, around the time of the U.S. withdrawal, found that Americans expected Iraq would get overrun by terrorists, but overwhelmingly supported withdrawal anyway.

Specifically, the pollsters offered a series of scenarios and asked if they were likely or unlikely to happen in the "the next few years." The results: 54 percent said it was unlikely Iraq would "continue to have a democratic government that will not be overthrown by terrorists"; 60 percent said it was unlikely Iraqi security forces would "be able to ensure safety and security in Iraq without assistance from the United States" and 63 percent said it was unlikely Iraq would "be able to prevent terrorists from using the country as a base of operations for planning attacks against the United States." Despite this pessimism, 78 percent of Americans in the same poll said they approved of the decision to withdraw.

So, I just don’t see Americans blaming Obama for what’s happening. Most people viewed the disintegration of Iraq as inevitable, and they didn’t want to pay the price in blood and treasure in perpetuity, waiting endlessly for the creation of an Iraqi government that could stand on its own.

The only way this becomes a political problem for Obama is if he intervenes and things don't improve or get dramatically worse. Which is likely another reason why he's reluctant to get involved.

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