Bush on surge in 2007: ‘Failure in Iraq should be unacceptable to the civilized world’

Special to WorldTribune.com

James S. Robbins

In early 2007, then-Senator Barack Obama was pushing a plan to pull U.S. forces out of Iraq and abort the “surge” strategy that had yet to take hold and end the raging sectarian struggle. President George W. Bush believed that a precipitate U.S. troop pullout would lead to increased chaos, bloodshed, and eventual terrorist victories. Given the recent dramatic events in Iraq, it looks like Mr. Bush knew what he was talking about.

President George W. Bush with U.S. forces after authorizing a troop surge in Iraq. / Reuters
President George W. Bush with U.S. forces after authorizing a troop surge in Iraq. / Reuters

In January 2007, Senator Obama introduced S 433, “The Iraq War De-Escalation Act of 2007,” that would have prevented the troop surge and begun a year-long U.S. military withdrawal. This would, he believed, “pressure the Iraqis to finally reach a political settlement and reduce the violence.” Oddly enough, with Iraq now in turmoil Mr. Obama is saying the use of force to counter the ISIS offensive would be insufficient without some form of political settlement to reduce the violence, which was facilitated by the withdrawal of U.S. troops in the first place.

Mr. Bush was busy defending his politically unpopular but militarily daring plan to implement the surge. On May 1, 2007, at an address to a CENTCOM Coalition Conference at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, he explained why he thought it would be a mistake to abandon the surge strategy and immediately withdraw U.S. combat forces. He said that the option proposed by people like Senators Obama, Clinton and Biden was to “pull back from [Baghdad] before the Iraqis could defend themselves against these radicals and extremists and death squads and killers. That risked turning Iraq into a cauldron of chaos.” He explained that “the enemies of freedom, love chaos. Out of that chaos they could find new safe havens. Withdrawal would have emboldened these radicals and extremists. It would have confirmed their belief that our nations were weak. It would help them gain new recruits, new resources. It would cause them to believe they could strike free nations at their choice.”

Mr. Bush concluded that “withdrawal would have increased the probability that coalition troops would be forced to return to Iraq one day, and confront an enemy that is even more dangerous. Failure in Iraq should be unacceptable to the civilized world.”

The surge strategy worked. Violence was reduced dramatically in Iraq, and a stable, democratically elected government took power. When Mr. Bush left office in January 2009, he could rightly claim to have left Iraq in the win column.


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