Obama's crucible is overseas

Having averted a double-dip recession in America, will the president fall prey to a double-dip war in Iraq?

Robert Shrum

America’s national dialogue has been focused on the clash and change in Washington. Meanwhile, on non-metaphorical battlefronts half a world away, ominous events have commanded minimal public attention. Obama’s presidency, succeeding at home, could still be undone abroad. Baghdad and Kabul, having made a mockery of the Bush administration’s grandiose designs, now threaten to fall short of this administration’s far more modest objectives, leaving the president facing challenges far tougher than tangling with Washington’s Party of No.

George W. Bush promised to bring democracy to Iraq. Unfortunately, what was installed was a Rovian mutation of it, where the courts are being manipulated to steal an election. Iraq’s March balloting was supposed to set the stage for a withdrawal of tens of thousands of U.S. troops. Instead Iraq is now engaged in a political war that could flare into full-fledged violence. After an election certified by U.S. and international observers as fair, a quasi-kangaroo court has ordered up a selective recount designed to benefit the incumbent Shiite-dominated, Iran-cozy government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The court has also disqualified candidates from the winning slate on grounds that they were too close to the Ba’ath Party of Saddam Hussein. The real offense of al-Maliki’s rival, Ayad Allawi, was to run a winning campaign with a slate that spanned the nation’s division between Shia and Sunni.

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Robert Shrum has been a senior adviser to the Gore 2000 presidential campaign, the campaign of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and the British Labour Party. In addition to being the chief strategist for the 2004 Kerry-Edwards campaign, Shrum has advised thirty winning U.S. Senate campaigns; eight winning campaigns for governor; mayors of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and other major cities; and the Democratic Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. Shrum's writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The New Republic, Slate, and other publications. The author of No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner (Simon and Schuster), he is currently a Senior Fellow at New York University's Wagner School of Public Service.