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Sobering up

President Barack Obama speaks about the situation in Iraq, Thursday, June 19, 2014, in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. Obama said the US will send up to 300 military advisers to Iraq, set up joint operation centers. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The tone of the Iraq discussion seems to have changed suddenly.

Senator McCain has spent the last couple of days trying to stoke a “Who Lost Iraq” debate.

“The president’s mishandling of Iraq for the last five years, his consistent inaction on Syria has not brought us to the verge of disaster,” he said.

But after a series of closed door briefings Thursday, described by one participant as “sobering,” pro-intervention Republicans like Marco Rubio seemed to tone down the rhetoric.

“I felt that what the president said today is a much better place to be than we were 24 hours ago,” said Rubio.

And anti-intervention Democrats like Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut were conceding that, “maybe a short-term limited engagement to help stand up the Iraqi military makes sense.”

And as for the president’s decision to keep Americans out of the actual fighting, CBS’s Clarissa Ward in Baghdad says that’s the way the Iraqi government wants it.

“They’re trying to avoid the perception that Iraq is somehow dependent on the U.S. or that it is weak militarily.”

So maybe, even though we’re careening towards a congressional election, we can carve out a consensus here – that regardless of what policy mistakes on the left or right may have allowed this to happen, and regardless of how incompetent the current Iraqi government is, and regardless of whether this group known as ISIS is in fact being welcomed by the locals whose towns are being taken over, the United States has a legitimate self-defense interest here. And we will therefore deny any attempt at nationhood by any armed group spawned by al Qaeda. Period.

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