Week In News: Gadhafi's Death, U.S. Out Of Iraq

Moammar Gadhafi is dead, NATO will end its military operation in Libya at the end of the month, and all but a handful of U.S. troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year. Weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz speaks with James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic, about those stories and others from the past week.

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GUY RAZ, host: It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

President BARACK OBAMA: This week, we had two powerful reminders of how we renewed American leadership in the world. I was proud to announce that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of this year. And in Libya, the death of Moammar Gadhafi showed that our role in protecting the Libyan people and helping them break free from a tyrant was the right thing to do.

RAZ: President Obama from this morning's video address. It's been a successful foreign policy week for the White House, but not necessarily so on the domestic front. For more, we're joined by James Fallows of The Atlantic. He's with us most Saturdays for a look behind the headlines. Hi, Jim.

JAMES FALLOWS: Hello, Guy,

RAZ: Jim, coming up, we'll hear a report on the latest from Libya. But first, I want to talk about domestic policy. The president has been on a barnstorming tour, as you know, trying to sell his $450 billion jobs bill to the American people. The Senate once again blocked a big part of that bill this past week. Is there any hope for it?

FALLOWS: I think there is not much hope with it actually being enacted into legislation in the next year. And we see the intersection here of two very clear political strategies, one from the president's point of view is to say again and again and again that the lack of jobs is the main problem for the U.S. economy. Pass this jobs bill. Pass it now.

The Republicans have a large enough share of the Senate with their 47 seats to be able to apply the filibuster to vote this bill in total and each part of it as this come up for consideration. And so, this extra stimulus cannot be added to the economy.

RAZ: But essentially, his strategy - the president's strategy is to just say I'm going to try and it probably will fail.

FALLOWS: I think that's the alternative that is open to him now, because again given the determination of the Republicans to apply the filibuster to essentially anything the president puts forward, he knows it's not going to get through in the foreseeable future. So the best thing that's opened to him is to say, this is what I'm trying to do and is building momentum for next year's election.

RAZ: Jim, lets move to Iraq. The president announced a full U.S. withdrawal by the end of this year. His take is that this is a fulfillment of a campaign promise, but there's a bit of spin there, isn't it?

FALLOWS: Oh, sure. It's not at all the way he expected to fulfill the promise. The reason there's going to be this complete or near-complete withdrawal of U.S. troops by the end of this year is not so much the commitment by the U.S. government to wind them down as the view on the Iraqi side that they are not willing to keep U.S. forces in their country any longer than the end of this year. And the reason for that, of course, is the disagreement about whether U.S. - uniformed troops and also contractors would be subject to Iraqi law for things that went wrong while they were serving that country.

RAZ: Jim, in Libya, of course, Moammar Gadhafi is dead. He's been killed. NATO's military campaign there will end at the end of this month. President Obama inherited two wars, Libya was his own for sure. But, of course, it was a war that America kind of held at arms length. Does the success in Libya, in a way, establish an Obama doctrine now?

FALLOWS: The president can claim that it establishes his competence in increasing areas of foreign policy because very few things have gone dramatically wrong on his watch and many things have gone better on his watch than many people expected in the international realm.

But when he was proposing or announcing this U.S. support for the NATO effort in Libya, he made very clear that this was a almost unique situation. He was saying this is not some larger proposal of going in to intervene even for humanitarian purposes around the world. He said, this is a particular circumstance where the risks and the consequences of not going in are so severe and the possibility of doing something positive is large enough that it's worth this effort. So I will be surprised if we see him extending this to other countries. But he can say this is something I decided to do, and so far it has worked.

RAZ: And, Jim, this past week, Vice President Biden talked about this saying, you know, we spent just $2 billion in Libya to help remove a dictator. Of course, it was a veiled reference to Iraq, where we spent many hundreds of billions of dollars. Biden saying essentially this approach is more successful.

FALLOWS: Indeed. And certainly, if every war could be fought this way with apparently no U.S. lives lost - certainly many people in Libya have died from action on all sides - and a minimal expenditure of money compared to what had been laid in Iraq and Afghanistan over the years, certainly this will be the way for all combat to happen if we had that choice. But it may again be, as the president said, this was an almost unique situation.

RAZ: That's James Fallows. He's national correspondent for The Atlantic. You can read his blog at jamesfallows.theatlantic.com. Jim, as always, thanks so much.

FALLOWS: My pleasure, Guy.

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