Jeremy Herb reports on Iraq's return to the campaign spotlight:
Romney specifically took aim at Obama’s “abrupt” withdrawal from Iraq during a major foreign policy address this week at the Virginia Military Institute.
“In Iraq, the costly gains made by our troops are being eroded by rising violence, a resurgent Al Qaeda, the weakening of democracy in Baghdad, and the rising influence of Iran,” Romney said.
“And yet, America’s ability to influence events for the better in Iraq has been undermined by the abrupt withdrawal of our entire troop presence. The president tried — and failed — to secure a responsible and gradual drawdown that would have better secured our gains.”
In targeting Iraq, Romney is taking on one of the biggest achievements of Obama’s first term.
The president frequently mentions his campaign promise to end the war in Iraq in stump speeches, and the campaign has pushed back aggressively against Romney by saying the Republican nominee would still have troops there.
Iraq is not about to reemerge the major issue it was in 2008, of course.
Even the war in Afghanistan, where 68,000 U.S. troops remain, has played a relatively small role in the 2012 campaign.
But a renewed focus on Iraq this week shows that it will be more than just an applause line for Obama for the campaign’s duration.
Both campaigns think they can score points by using Iraq as a key indictment of their opponent’s larger foreign policy.
This is a strange line of attack for a number of reasons. First, most Americans favored the pullout. Pew Research found a whopping 75 percent in favor when they polled at the end of 2011. As far as public opinion is concerned, Obama is on the right side of the Iraq issue.
Substantively, the Romney charge is a head-scratcher. It's true that the Obama administration tried and failed to secure a deal whereby a residual force would remain in Iraq. Harping on that failure is certainly fair game. In fact, it's bizarre for the Obama administration to brag about the troop pullout when it was clear they worked hard to prevent it. U.S. troops left Iraq in spite of the administration's efforts, not because of them.
But those deals broke down because the Iraqi government refused to provide immunity for U.S. troops that remained in the country. So Romney is essentially saying that the administration should have found a clever way to subvert the wishes of the Iraqi government and impose U.S. troops on Iraq on American terms. That's not a charge someone who is constantly championing "American values" wants to make all that loudly, is it?