Saturday, July 05, 2008

Piling On

Sen. Obama earlier this week:

"I’ve always said that the pace of withdrawal would be dictated by the safety and security of our troops and the need to maintain stability. That assessment has not changed. . . and when I go to Iraq and have a chance to talk to some of the commanders on the ground, I’m sure I’ll have more information and will continue to refine my policies. . .my 16-month timeline, if you examine everything that I’ve said, was always premised on making sure that our troops were safe. . .I said that based on the information that we had received from our commanders that one to two brigades a month could be pulled out safely, from a logistical perspective. My guiding approach continues to be that we’ve got to make sure that our troops are safe and that Iraq is stable. . .I’m going to continue to gather information to find out whether those conditions still hold.

And then, ONLY A COUPLE OF HOURS LATER in a "hastily arranged news conference", he takes to the podium again to say:

"I intend to end this war… my first day in office, I will bring the Joint Chiefs of Staff in, and I will give them a new mission. That is to end this war, responsibly, deliberately but decisively. . .that position has not changed. I have not equivocated on that position. I am not searching for maneuvering room with respect to that position. . .I have always reserved the right to do what’s best for America’s national interest… I would be a poor commander-in-chief if I didn’t take facts on the ground into account. . .I have seen no information that contradicts the notion that we can bring out troops out safely at a pace of one to two brigades per month… This is the same position that I had four months ago. . ."

Now I know that this is an awful lot of "words aren't just words" to swallow on a long weekend, but somebody's got to try and decipher all this gobble-dee-guck for you. And I'm just the guy, so here goes:

Obama talked about the "notion" that we can bring troops out safely at a pace of one to two brigades per month--from a LOGISTICAL PERSPECTIVE. There's no strategic planning involved with this timeline, nor is there a place to account for what happens if, during that phased retreat, violence spikes upward. He is merely talking about the logistics of abandoning Iraq--which is a very monodimensional look at what is happening over there. Not that such a view should be surprising. . .

What's lacking from his statements is a no-kidding date as to when we're going to start that one-to-two brigade per month retreat. Even in his clarification, where he states that he intends to end this war by calling in the JCS and giving them a new mission, he doesn't say exactly when he will make heads roll if the job isn't finished. While he may say he's not looking for wiggle room, he is certainly providing an awful lot of it to his would-be subordinates.

Which, by the way, is really poor leadership because it shirks HIM of any accountability for the direction he's providing. But that's to be expected from a man who's never led anything.

But here's the real crunch, and one that I can only hope finds its way into a debate: when he says that he would be a poor CINC if he didn't account for the facts on the ground--facts which, by the way, he hasn't cared to gather firsthand for a ridiculously long period of time--and that he has always "reserved the right to do what’s best for America’s national interest", I wonder IF there's a point in time where the facts on the ground will tell him that it's in America's best interest to maintain a long-term PRESENCE in Iraq? (Obama prefers to use the word occupation, but there's a huge difference between an occupying force and a "presence"--not that I'd expect anyone to call him on it). And if not. . .then is he really actually listening to the facts on the ground? I mean, he's got to say that there's at least SOME point where he may decide we should maintain a presence in Iraq if he wants to give any service to the idea of being open-minded and willing to listen to his advisors--right?

Obama, of course, is just blowing smoke. He wants to get out of Iraq, but he wants to distance himself from any accountability for that effort. So he will be . . .uncommittal in his "leadership" on this issue. He'll fire a few Chairmen of the JCS because they'll undoubtedly not live up to his ill-defined expectations (I wouldn't be surprised to see a CENTCOM commander or two under the bus as well), and in the end regardless of how Iraq turns out, he will take the best road possible for his views. If Iraq is stable, he'll say "see, I told you we didn't need to be there,"; if Iraq turns into a mess, he'll blame the military (for their implementation of the withdrawal), the Bush administration (for even starting the war), the Republicans in Congress (for providing voice to the opposition). . .heck, I wouldn't even be surprised if the bible-reading gun-toting xenophobes from middle America would come in for some blame as well.

So how would this all play out in an Obama administration? Here's my best guess: Obama actually WILL listen to his advisors--just not the ones who know anything about the military or about the Middle East (why would he listen to them?). No, he'll listen to the guy who's part of Obama's "circle" because he's the best at CYA. And Mr. CYA will tell Obama that he MUST delay the drawdown of the troops for one simple reason: if the U.S. withdrawal leaves Iraq as a total mess AND it starts too soon, then Obama will likely be dealing with a GOP-controlled house in 2010 and an invigorated right-wing opposition for the majority of his first term. If Obama delays the start of withdrawal until, say, spring of 2010, then Iraq will break down into two possibilities: a) the extra time at full-strength will give more opportunity for the overall mission in Iraq to succeed, and he'd even get to take a little credit for that (makes the stomach wretch, I know); or 2) the withdrawal is still in the early stages of implementation by the time of the Congressional elections, so no clear conclusion can be drawn as to the shape of Iraq when the U.S. has left; Iraq is therefore off the table as a factor in the elections.

Either way, Obama plays it out like the opportunist that he is.

Two press conferences in a couple hours--BOTH of which are about Iraq but in neither of which does he get pinned down into his thoughts on one of the most important issues of the day. The man is a chameleon.


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