Let me explain. My case, which is spelled out in detail here, looks back at what bedeviled Presidents as the glow of their return to office
faded. For Lyndon Johnson, it was the stealth escalation in Vietnam he plotted even as he ran as a peace candidate in 1964. For Nixon, it was the Watergate break-in, designed to filch political plans of his 1972 foes. For Clinton, it was Monica Lewinsky’s arrival at the White House during the government shutdown of 1995. For George W. Bush, it was the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the disastrous post-invasion fiasco.
And Obama? In that 2012 piece, I wrote that the first-term roots of second term trouble might come “mostly from abroad, where the potential for instability, violence and anti-American hostility could make presidential decisions look very bad. … Imagine Iraq exploding into a new civil war, or aligning itself with a still-governing Assad in Syria, or with Iran.”
The presidential decisions now undergoing very tough judgments include not just the decision to withdraw completely from Iraq, but the decision to keep Prime Minister Nouri-al-Maliki in power despite overwhelming evidence that he was assembling a sectarian Shiite state. Ali Khedery, who was at one time the longest-serving American in Iraq, has just published a lengthy, agonizing account of U.S. policy blindness. It follows the blistering critiques of American missteps by The New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins, one of the most experienced of American war journalists writing today.