The Obama Campaign’s favorite magazine, The New Yorker, ran an article this month that carried what I think might become a very prophetic headline; OBAMA’S IRAQ PROBLEM (digg story). Now, the story talks about the controversy surrounding Mr. Obama’s 16 month withdrawal plan. However, I think that when we look at Mr. Obama’s rhetoric on Iraq, the problem goes deeper. Mr. Obama has been very reluctant to concede any credit to the surge for the remarkable progress in Iraq over the last year. Mr. Obama portrays, or at least has until very recently portrayed, the war in Iraq as an endless quagmire. However, he has clearly stated that he believes the real battle is in Afghanistan where he plans to increase troop strength to fight increased al Qaeda and Taliban forces there.

The problem now for Mr. Obama is twofold. First, if Mr. Obama did not believe that a surge would work in Iraq a year ago and is still only willing to call it a contributory factor in the progress in Iraq over the past year, why is he calling for what is essentially a surge in Afghanistan? And what if Afghanistan turns out to be the quagmire that Mr. Obama promised Iraq would be?

Second and far more important to me as one of the soldiers who will end up serving on the Afghan front, how does Mr. Obama define victory in the war on al Qaeda, the war on terror? I suspect that once he gets it all worked out it will look something like this:

The best way to secure long-term peace and security is to establish a stable, prosperous, and democratic state in Afghanistan that poses no threat to its neighbors and contributes to the defeat of terrorists. When Afghani forces can safeguard their own country, American troops can return home. (source)

And one last thought. Has it occurred to Mr. Obama that at least part of the reason for the increase in al Qaeda activity in Afghanistan is because of the surge and the success in Iraq? That maybe al Qaeda is shifting personnel from Iraq to Afghanistan?

aloha

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Obama's Great Seal
“It is not going to be a political speech,” said a senior foreign policy adviser, who spoke to reporters on background. “When the president of the United States goes and gives a speech, it is not a political speech or a political rally.

”But he is not president of the United States,“ a reporter reminded the adviser.

”He is going to talk about the issues as an individual … not as a candidate, but as an individual, as a senator,“ the adviser added.

original article | digg story

This is pretty funny. First, I would argue that pretty much every time the sitting President of the United States opens his mouth it’s a political speech. The Press sure seems to think so.

Second, which is it? Is Mr. Obama speaking as the President, an individual or as a senator? Each is significantly different though some might argue that speaking as a senator is similar to speaking as the president. It is a commentary on the senior foreign policy adviser that s/he does not seem to appreciate the difference or even that there is a difference. The initial example is, in my opinion, enlightening in that it shows the frame of mind from which the adviser is approaching this campaign trip.

aloha

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Yesterday, I pointed out that Mr. Obama’s strategy for Iraq, at least as it is being presented, really has very little to do with Iraq. I take a certain amount of satisfaction in the fact that the Washington Post today makes the same point in their Op-Ed piece (read more | digg story).

Also interesting is the response from Dr. Susan Rice, a senior foreign policy adviser to Mr. Obama, about the editorial. The war on terror is a lot like the arcade game, Whack-a-Mole. I would not be in the least bit surprised if it were discovered that the rise in violence in Afghanistan is being coordinated by al Qaeda. To suggest that the US can afford to withdraw from Iraq in order to pursue terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan is to admit a lack of understanding of how terrorist organizations operate.

The only viable, responsible way out of Iraq is through an economically and politically stable Iraq whose Army and Police force are capable of ensuring that nation’s security. Anything short of that leaves open the opportunity for al Qaeda.

aloha

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OK, this is funny. The supposedly web-savy candidate pulls a rather suspicious stunt. And the candidate that openly admits he’s still learning how to use the web, uses some pretty advanced web tools to point out the suspicious stunt. Say what you will about the deeper meanings and ramifications, on the face of it, this is funny.

aloha

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Seriously, I love this article (digg story)

“I called for a comprehensive new strategy — a surge of troops and counterinsurgency to win the war. Senator Obama disagreed,” Mr. McCain said. “He opposed the surge, predicted it would increase sectarian violence, and called for our troops to retreat as quickly as possible. Today we know Senator Obama was wrong.”

We know that Mr. Obama was wrong. Mr. Obama is having some trouble coming to terms with the reality that is now being shoved down his throat.

Mr. Obama acknowledged in what was billed as a major foreign policy address that the addition of tens of thousands of combat troops to Iraq early last year had lowered violence there. But he said that only strengthened his case for a rapid withdrawal, not weakened it, because the surge had increased the strain on American forces and had cost lives and money as the situation in Afghanistan grew worsened.

This does not even make sense. Never mind that every analyst and commentator in the world has been forced to admit that the troop surge has been a success. Mr. Obama believes that we should rapidly withdraw forces from Iraq because the surge has increased the strain on American forces, cost lives and money and the situation in Afghanistan grew worse. What?? The following paragraph in the article quotes Mr. Obama as saying that Mr. McCain does not have a strategy for success in Iraq. Mr. McCain’s web site clearly states his strategy for success in Iraq which also includes a clear guideline on when US troops should come home. Maybe Mr. Obama should go over and read it. It says:

The best way to secure long-term peace and security is to establish a stable, prosperous, and democratic state in Iraq that poses no threat to its neighbors and contributes to the defeat of terrorists. When Iraqi forces can safeguard their own country, American troops can return home.

It really doesn’t get any clearer than that. Mr. Obama has not been able to explain his strategy for Iraq in such clear concise terms. Moreover, Mr. Obama’s strategy for Iraq is really a strategy for America, Iraq be damned. Mr. Obama’s plan for Iraq is to, as quickly as possible, leave Iraqis to fend for themselves on the assumption that if they are not ready the pressure of the situation will force them to become ready sooner. Mr. Obama’s strategy provides the window of opportunity for insurgents and al Qaeda in Iraq to restore themselves.

Senator Obama is departing soon on a trip abroad that will include a fact-finding mission to Iraq and Afghanistan,” Mr. McCain said at his town hall meeting in Albuquerque. “And I note that he is speaking today about his plans for Iraq and Afghanistan before he has even left, before he has talked to General Petraeus, before he has seen the progress in Iraq, and before he has set foot in Afghanistan for the first time. In my experience, fact-finding missions usually work best the other way around: first you assess the facts on the ground, then you present a new strategy.

Mr. Obama has been quoted a number of times as saying that he thinks his judgement. I seriously question Mr. Obama’s judgement.

aloha

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So, about this plan, Mr. Obama. I have a few questions and a couple of comments.

Political leaders in Iraq have only just begun to look like leaders albeit, shaky ones. Most observers attribute this budding leadership to the security that the surge in US Forces has brought. In your plan you at once point out the failures of Iraqi leadership to rise to the occasion of leading their country while at the same time promote a plan that relies heavily on the ability of this same leadership. You seem convinced that the best thing for Iraq and the US is to begin withdrawing troops at the earliest possible moment and continue to withdraw them until only the residual force remains. You seem to be advocating a sink or swim philosophy for both Iraqi leadership and Iraqi security forces. How is it that you are so certain Iraqi Leadership and Iraqi Forces are actually capable of filling the void that will be left as US forces are withdrawn?

Only by redeploying our troops can we press the Iraqis to reach comprehensive political accommodation and achieve a successful transition to Iraqis’ taking responsibility for the security and stability of their country. Instead of seizing the moment and encouraging Iraqis to step up, the Bush administration and Senator McCain are refusing to embrace this transition — despite their previous commitments to respect the will of Iraq’s sovereign government.

It seems to me that the removable of US forces and the message that US forces will continue to be removed will provide a clear window of opportunity for insurgents and al Qaida in Iraq to again step up their activities and reassert themselves as US forces vacate. This is the primary concern of commanders on the ground today. That the gains that have been made will collapse as we draw down forces. What is your plan for preventing this and how will you accomplish that plan while at the time same continuing the redeployment of 1 to 2 brigades per month?

As I’ve said many times, we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in.

Yeah, I’m tired of reading it already. Moreover, immediately after this sentence is the one about having US troops out in 16 months. In my experience, you can be fast or you can be careful but it is extremely difficult to be fast and careful. I believe that the careful way out is this:

The best way to secure long-term peace and security is to establish a stable, prosperous, and democratic state in Iraq that poses no threat to its neighbors and contributes to the defeat of terrorists. When Iraqi forces can safeguard their own country, American troops can return home. (source)

I think that is the clearest statement of an end game objective that I have seen on Iraq. This is good for America, good for Iraq.

That is why, on my first day in office, I would give the military a new mission: ending this war.

And what, exactly, do you think their mission is now?

The point here is this. Mr. Obama’s candidacy has come a long way on the belief that he represents significant change in Iraq. The fact of the matter is, he does not. Mr. Obama tells us that he will have US troops out of Iraq in 16 months but then qualifies that by saying that it may require adjustments according to what’s happening on the ground. The more seasoned and experienced politicians, Hillary Clinton, President Bush and Mr. McCain, are more realistic in their statements. All three are more reluctant to give a timetable because they understand that US withdrawal from Iraq will be dictated by the development of Iraqi security forces and government. Mr. Obama eloquently tells the American public that he can get us out in 16 months. By the time the American Public discovers that his plan is pretty the same as everyone else’s, it will be too late. He’ll already be President.

aloha

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“I’m surprised at how finely calibrated every single word was measured. I wasn’t saying anything I hadn’t said before, that I didn’t say a year ago or when I was a United States senator,” said Obama, who is still a senator from Illinois. (source)

I keep coming back to that first sentence. “I’m surprised at how finely calibrated every single word was measured.” Here is a man running for President who apparently doesn’t understand that every word he utters in a public forum or in the presence of any member of the press (including snarky progressive political bloggers) will be scrutinized, analyzed, and fantasized — and yes, even measured to fine calibration — before the next deadline.

If Mr. Obama has not yet figured that out, maybe he’s not quite ready to sit in the Oval Office. What you say in that office is measured on a whole other level.

aloha

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Obama, who based his drive to capture the Democratic nomination on his early and ardent opposition to the war, said earlier this week he might alter his plan to bring combat troops home within 16 months of taking office if conditions on the ground changed.

The comment drew heavy coverage and sharp criticism from some on the left and the right, with Republicans saying it showed he was vacillating on Iraq.

read more | digg story

The word they are using is “flip-flop” which, in my opinion, is a bit more than vacillating. However, I think the accusation is inaccurate. I am fairly sure that Mr. Obama has been fairly consistent in his position on Iraq. What he has not been is forthcoming on the details of his position. He has trumpeted loudly his opposition to the Iraq war. And left it at that. Until now, he has not been terribly forthcoming on his plans for Iraq if elected. At least, I haven’t seen any news articles from reliable sources in which Mr. Obama has articulated his plan for Iraq.

I do think that Mr. Obama is being, at best, naive and, more likely, disingenuous. Mr. Obama has missed very few opportunities to remind the public that he opposes the Iraq war. “Out of Iraq in 16 months” has been associated with Mr. Obama for a long time, though I cannot find the original statement. I think that Mr. Obama has been very careful at not talking about Iraq any more than necessary. He reminds the public that he opposes the Iraq war, points out that he has voted against it and moves on to other topics. Mr. Obama has stood by quietly and let people think that he is the candidate to get the US out of the Iraq war. And now he’s playing a mock surprise when he articulates a plan not significantly different from anyone else’s plan and everyone cries foul.

The reality of Iraq is that there is only one way out. To pull US troops out prematurely will not end the war in Iraq. It will simply end US involvement. And whatever happens next will rightfully be laid at our feet. Iraq is now our responsibility. We opened the can, we are responsible for its contents. The only way to end this war, responsibly, deliberately but decisively is to establish a stable, prosperous, and democratic state in Iraq that poses no threat to its neighbors and contributes to the defeat of terrorists.

aloha

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Iraq will not accept any security agreement with the United States unless it includes dates for the withdrawal of foreign forces. The differing stances underscore the intense debate in Baghdad over a deal with Washington that will provide a legal basis for U.S. troops to operate when a U.N. mandate expires at the end of the year.

read more | digg story

It will be interesting to see how this debate plays out. It seems, at least at this point, to call into question any suggestion that the Iraqi government is a puppet of the US. I think it illustrates the more reasonable statement that Iraqis realize the need for assistance in providing security but long for the day when they are truly free to manage their own affairs.

aloha

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