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Thread: Mr. Obama, Give That Man a Medal
11-18-08, 07:32 AM #1
Mr. Obama, Give That Man a Medal
NOVEMBER 18, 2008, 12:18 A.M. ET
Mr. Obama, Give That Man a Medal
Stephen Hadley offered the option of victory in Iraq.
By WILLIAM MCGURN
I suppose it's possible that George W. Bush would award Stephen J. Hadley the Medal of Freedom. Certainly the president's national security adviser has earned it, for work that made possible the success we are now seeing in Iraq. And it would be within the president's prerogative to see that work acknowledged with this honor before they both leave the White House come Jan. 20.
But how much better it would be all around -- for the country, for the recipient, and even for Barack Obama -- if Mr. Hadley were to receive this honor from the hands of the 44th president of the United States.
Now, Mr. Hadley is a former colleague of mine from the White House. We did not always see eye to eye, and I know this self-effacing man well enough to know he would be appalled to find anyone putting his name forward for a medal. Yet one fact trumps everything else: Without this good man's courage and persistence, there would have been no surge.
I don't think I am talking out of school to mention facts that have been recorded in newspaper articles and books as different as Bing West's "The Strongest Tribe" and Bob Woodward's "The War Within." The surge story begins back in 2006, when al Qaeda finally succeeded in setting the Shia and Sunni at each others' throats. That October, with Baghdad consumed by sectarian fires, Mr. Hadley tasked William Luti to come up with a new way forward.
Mr. Luti was then serving in the National Security Council (NSC) as special assistant for defense policy and strategy. A retired Navy captain who had commanded an amphibious ready group that included thousands of Marines, he was familiar with war planning. The briefing that he came up with was called "Changing the Dynamics: Surge and Fight, Create Breathing Space and Then Accelerate the Transition." You know it as "the surge."
The difficulty for these two men was that outside their colleagues in the NSC and West Wing, few wanted to hear about sending more American troops to Iraq. The Democrats wanted out and were declaring the war lost. Some Republicans were joining in. The Iraq Study Group offered a face-saving out, and many in the Defense and State departments wanted to take it. The American public was weary.
By having Mr. Luti draw up the concept for a surge, Mr. Hadley ensured that when options were presented to the president, one of them would be to fight. In Mr. Luti's strategic conception, securing the population became the top priority. In public, advocates like retired Army Gen. Jack Keane and military strategist Fred Kagan did yeoman's work to press the case for a surge. But within the White House decision-making process, it was almost this simple: No Steve Hadley, no surge -- and no success.
What can this possibly mean for Mr. Obama? The answer is plenty. Many things have changed since he first came out against this war. For one thing, he is now the president-elect instead of an opposition voice in the Senate -- which means he now bears the responsibility for how the war turns out. For another, back when he first called for U.S. troops to be withdrawn, President Bush's victory talk was treated as a joke. It is no longer a joke.
As Gens. David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno are keen to remind us, the gains in Iraq are fragile and reversible. But they are nevertheless real. And that means that if Mr. Obama is not careful, he could be the president who loses Iraq.
It need not turn out that way. At bottom, Mr. Obama's war stance boils down to reducing our presence in Iraq and increasing our presence in Afghanistan. The success of the surge permits him to carry out this strategy from a position of strength. In fact, the security pact just approved by Iraq's cabinet suggests that Mr. Obama is now in a position to achieve most of his Iraq aims without jeopardizing the hard-won gains our troops have made -- provided he keeps his word to listen to our commanders on the ground.
Awarding Steve Hadley the Medal of Freedom would cost Mr. Obama nothing, save possibly a few howls from the Daily Kos. Surely it is not beyond a candidate who has already conceded that the surge has "succeeded beyond our wildest dreams" to bestow the Medal of Freedom on the public servant who made that success possible.
Were President Obama to do so, a good man would receive an honor he richly deserves. The American people would see a new president confident enough to acknowledge the success of a decision he opposed. And the world would know that when the United States does leave Iraq, we intend to walk out with honor instead of being helo'd off an embassy rooftop.
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IN LOVING MEMORY OF MY LATE HUSBAND, SSgt Roger A. Alfano, USMC
ONE PROUD MARINE
Once a Marine...Always a Marine
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