Published for Shadow Government at www.ForeignPolicy.com, November 3, 2011
In a recent post, I flagged an inconvenient fact that is rarely touted in White House press releases: the extent to which President Obama’s greatest foreign policy successes have come when he followed in his predecessor’s footsteps while his most frustrating foreign policy set-backs have come when he charted a whole new path.
There is nothing particularly novel about a White House giving itself credit for inventing wheels (the Bush administration had the same reflex), though the Obama team has been especially loathe to note any parallels with its predecessor … except in one particular area. In public and private settings, Obama supporters have taken pains to remind people that it was President Bush who negotiated and signed the 2008 Status of Forces Agreement (SoFA) Strategic Framework Agreement that obligates U.S. forces to leave Iraq by the end of 2011. Indeed, some have claimed that this is an inconvenient fact of its own, at least for Republican critics who want to charge that Obama is being reckless in his Iraq policy.
The implicit message is obvious: “we can’t be criticized for ending the war in this way because, after all, we are just following the treaty obligations that Bush agreed to. If they were good enough for Bush, they are good enough for us.”