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Obama in Iraq reminiscent of Andrew Johnson's Reconstruction

Andrew Johnson's policies left former slaves to their former masters.
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Stability in Iraq is floundering. El Qaeda has taken Fallujah and other towns in the vicinity. The country was stabilized prior to President Obama’s election. However, for political reasons, he allowed the country to fall into anarchy. History repeats itself. President Andrew Johnson also lost control and squandered a wartime victory in the Old South. In both instances, the commander-in-chief surrendered to outside forces in order to gain an electoral advantage. Johnson’s folly led to a century of Jim Crow while Obama’s missteps could turn the Persian Gulf into an Iranian lake.

Andrew Johnson shared Abraham Lincoln’s view that secession was illegal. In their minds, the South never truly left the Union. Johnson formulated his Reconstruction policy around this belief in order to reintegrate the rebel states into the country as quickly as possible. At first northerners believed Johnson would be tough, but presidential rhetoric did not match his actions. In the end, Confederates won elections throughout the region and a power struggle developed between the president and congress.

President Obama is no stranger to struggling with congress. Islamic gains in Iraq and the Middle East are bound to increase tensions with the legislature. Obama opposed the Iraq War from the start and likely believed it illegal. Legality was irrelevant by the time he assumed office. The war was won, but Obama was determined to exit the country. He desperately needed to satisfy his anti-war base for his re-election bid and did not care about the blood and treasure shed by America.

Obama looked to 2012 while Johnson eyed 1868. The Tennessee native hoped to bring the former Confederacy back into the Union in time for the 1868 election. Johnson wanted to win the presidency in his own right. As a result, he began vetoing legislation designed to assist African Americans transition from slavery. He also ordered military commanders to ignore laws passed by congress. Johnson justified his actions as defending states’ rights. In his view, congress had no jurisdiction in Reconstruction because it was a state matter.

While Johnson argued for states’ rights, Obama invented an excuse to escape Iraq. He argued that American soldiers would not receive immunity under the Status of Forces Agreement he negotiated. Instead, they could be tried in Iraqi courts and therefore he would not sign it. However, George W. Bush also dealt with this issue and managed to overcome Iraqi intransigence. Obama also refused the military’s request for 20,000 troops. Instead, he offered less than 5,000, which would not be enough to train, equip, mediate, or defend Iraq. Obama, like Johnson, just wanted to exit.

Johnson’s efforts led to a struggle between the federal government and the South. Had he been decisive early, the showdown might never have occurred. Union armies decimated the Confederacy and had it on its knees. For a brief moment, a multiracial democracy emerged in the South. Johnson resuscitated the rebels and gave them hope. Congress impeached him for the effort and he left office in 1869. Meanwhile, the South turned to a terrorist campaign to expel the North. In the end, federal forces left the region as part of an agreement reached in 1877. The deal placed African Americans under the control of their former masters. Had President Johnson acted decisively and authoritatively, the Confederates would have lost more than the war. Instead, the defeated Confederate States of America won the peace. Johnson’s ultimate legacy became the Jim Crow system that dominated the South for a century.

President Johnson literally threw African Americans to the wolves. Obama followed suit in Iraq. The terrorists were defeated and humiliated by American forces in 2007-08 as the South was in 1865. However, Obama wanted out regardless of the consequences. El Qaeda has now captured Fallujah and other towns. In fact, they now hold more territory than in any time in their history. On top of this, Iran controls the skies over Iraq and is filling the vacuum left by Obama’s withdrawal. Essentially, Obama has done to the Iraqi people the same thing Johnson did to African Americans. The United States won the Iraq War, but El Qaeda and Iran appear to be on the verge of winning the peace. Johnson provided white supremacist hegemony over the South. Obama is providing Iranian hegemony over the Middle East.