President Obama is giving his second Oval Office address Tuesday night, to mark the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq. As the U.S. passes this benchmark, what should Obama, a critic of both the war and the largely successful "surge," say to the nation? (Watch an MSNBC discussion about Obama's message.) Commentators offer their suggestions:
Promise that our involvement in Iraq isn't over: It doesn't matter that he opposed invading Iraq, says William Kristol in The Weekly Standard. As president to all Americans, Obama needs to vow that we'll stay committed to helping "a free and democratic Iraq succeed." That means saying "we are open to stationing troops there" for as long as it takes, not restating his "vulgar and counter-productive emphasis" on "ending" the war.
"A note to the president"
Promise we'll never do this again: "Here are the top two words I want to hear" from Obama, says Jill Lawrence in Politics Daily: "Never again." He should, and will, praise the troops, but he also needs to tell America, and our allies, that Bush's disastrous policy of pre-emptive war is dead. He should assure us that we'll never stumble into an "Iraq-style debacle" again — or at least not "on his watch."
"What I want to hear from President Obama: Never again"
Define the U.S. mission in Iraq now: One thing Obama won't do is speak under a "Mission Accomplished" banner, says Peter Feaver in Foreign Policy. But the "artificial end to the combat mission" he'll declare is a similar "gimmick." We'll still have some 50,000 troops there, and he should lay out, clearly, what they are there to accomplish.
"What can Obama say about Iraq?"
Touch on how the war has affected America: Since Obama "can't declare victory," says Anne Applebaum in Slate, he should at least "spare a few minutes" to assess the "very high price" we've paid to get this far. He should acknowledge the "very real blood and the very real money spent in Iraq," but also America's loss of influence and effectiveness in the world, and the Middle East.
"The real cost of the war in Iraq"
Take a smidge of credit: Obama should give a nod to George W. Bush for setting up the drawdown framework, says Marc Lynch in Foreign Policy. But actually withdrawing 90,000 U.S. troops, without Iraq falling apart, is "one of the largely unremarked bright spots" in Obama's foreign policy record, and he "deserves the credit he is likely to claim" for meeting that goal. "I'm quite sure" President McCain wouldn't have.
"Why the Iraq milestone matters"
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