Obama Shifts? Rhetoric vs. Policy, Strategy vs. Tactics

Cross posted at The Left Anchor.

The following post is cannibalized from a comment I made at TPZoo.  It seems to me that some Obama supporters might be going a bit overboard with their declarations that Obama has made "massive" shifts to the center (I feel his biggest shifts are on FISA and NAFTA, the second of which doesn't surprise me, and the first of which would probably pass no matter what he did).  As for foreign policy, here is my take on Obama's Iraq position:

There are two basic elements to military action: strategy and tactics. Strategy is the long term plan aimed at achieving a given goal. Obama has very clearly stated that his strategy is to remove troops at roughly two brigades per month until all troops are out. This will achieve the goal of removing us from the Iraq quagmire. What is important to note here is that specific tactics for achieving this strategy do not fall under Obama's domain. He doesn't have the military training to be making those decisions. Presidents in general don't make those types of low-level decisions. That would be micromanaging, which is just generally a poor way to run things.

The military commanders on the ground are responsible for deciding the most appropriate tactical actions to take. And yes, there will be some give and take between tactics and strategy. Maybe the commanders examine the events on the ground and say that they don't think they can safely remove troops on a 16 month time frame, and instead will need 18 months. Is this really a point we want Obama to argue over? I trust the people on the ground to know how to best extract us from this situation.

It's not as if we're staying there now because the generals are saying we have to. We're staying there now, because that's George W. Bush's strategy, and the military leaders' job is to support and execute that strategy.

If Obama were president, the strategy would be to remove troops. He's made that very, very clear. And therefore, the generals will give him their best efforts in figuring out the best way to achieve that objective. Some seem to be suggesting that Obama not listen to the people on the ground, and that he not take any advice concerning troop withdrawal, or make any adjustments to his plan. This doesn't make a lot of sense to me, as that sort of rigidness is exactly what we've hated seeing in the Bush administration for so long.

Some are claiming that Barack Obama displayed an "unbelievable hubris in adopting the Bush talking points word for word about Iraq and `listening to the commanders on the ground.'" But this is a rhetorical point, not a point of policy. I tend to be policy oriented. Using this as a point with which to criticize Obama for policy shifts doesn't make a lot of sense to me.  George W. Bush claimed he would bring a new kind of politics to Washington, and we see how that worked out.  It wasn't that Bush changed his policies, it's that Bush used rhetoric to confuse the American people, and make his policies seem less ideological than they were.  From this we can learn that it is best to look at the make-up of the oppositions' advisers rather than listen to his speeches.  And Obama's advisers look solid.  I'm not sure we have a lot to worry about in that department.  Let's not throw an election away just because we can't get everything we want.  We'll get there in time.

Now, I do understand that Bush has abused the notion of "listening to the commanders" in order to pretend that it's the commanders who are insisting we stay in Iraq, but that's not Obama's fault, and basic common sense dictates that he needs to take advice from the commanders if he wishes to achieve his aim.  We've got to wake up and see the forest for the trees.  If we're waiting for Jesus Christ to become a Democratic candidate for the presidency, then we'll be waiting a long time.

Tags: Barack Obama, flip flop, Iraq, military, policy, rhetoric, shift, shifts, withdrawal (all tags)

Comments

28 Comments

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by Big Blue 2008-07-07 09:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Shifts? Rhetoric vs. Policy, Strategy v

If Obama were president, the strategy would be to remove troops. He's made that very, very clear. And therefore, the generals will give him their best efforts in figuring out the best way to achieve that objective.

Seems so obvious doesn't it?

First they have to untangle the mess Bush has made (carefully) and then the generals will implement their new strategy which is to get out.

Picking up and leaving on day one is not, nor has it ever been, an option.

Careless = In

Careful = Out

by spacemanspiff 2008-07-07 09:49PM | 0 recs
Bush's Strategy

It's not as if we're staying there now because the generals are saying we have to. We're staying there now, because that's George W. Bush's strategy, and the military leaders' job is to support and execute that strategy.

This is why I have always insisted that George W. Bush deserves no credit for the stability that the surge has brought. This was not his master plan, all he was looking for was a general who would give him a plan that involved staying in Iraq. As more and more generals came up with plans that involved an organized withdrawal, he found the one idea that didn't.

Whether the surge was a good idea or not, Bush had no intention of ever leaving. It was a stroke of extreme luck that it hit when it did, because if it had been announced or implemented earlier, it likely would not have succeeded.

Which is why McCain deserves no credit either. People don't remember, but when McCain threw out the idea for the surge, there was very little chance that it would happen. All signs pointed to a military that needed to be rested and voters demanding that Bush pull troops out. The surge was announced defiantly, a way to spite both Congress and the voters who would try to affect his decisions. McCain threw the surge out because it was a perfect cover. If the US lost, as looked to happen, he could appear as if he had a winning strategy that nobody listened to. That's why his surge included thousands more troops, too. There was no way the US could implement it.

by vcalzone 2008-07-07 10:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Bush's Strategy

Didn't mean to buy into the right-wing talking points via typo. I didn't mean "if we lost", I meant "if we left".

by vcalzone 2008-07-07 10:16PM | 0 recs
Re: Bush's Strategy

You sound bitter that the surge worked.

by rankles 2008-07-07 11:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Bush's Strategy

I am bitter that I was wrong about it. A subtle but important difference.

But that doesn't change that Bush was wrong 9 times out of 10 about this war and so was McCain. And that their insistence on being responsible for this victory only alienates the soldiers that were far more crucial in victory.

So now get ready for slow and steady pressure by Iraq for us to get the hell out that will eventually pop the stitches wide open. If it looks like McCain will win, be ready for them to start getting louder. The terrorists want McCain in office, but the law-abiding citizens of Iraq are not eager for more open-ended occupation.

by vcalzone 2008-07-07 11:39PM | 0 recs
Re: Bush's Strategy

You sound like you weren't skeptical about it yourself. Which, if true, not only demonstrates that you are a Republican, it proves you're one of the crazy, American Imperialism Republicans.

by vcalzone 2008-07-07 11:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Bush's Strategy

lol

You lose this debate, it seems.

by rankles 2008-07-08 12:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Bush's Strategy

Debate? When was there a debate? You never put any real ideas forward, you just criticize the ideas of other people.

by vcalzone 2008-07-08 01:17AM | 0 recs
Re: Bush's Strategy

When your only reply is 'you must be a republican' then you've lost.

by rankles 2008-07-08 01:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Bush's Strategy

That wasn't my only reply. But to be accused on here as rooting for defeat in Iraq is just unfathomable to me.

Just because something is too often thrown around doesn't make it untrue. The surge was a one in a million shot of a working strategy, and it took flawless execution by the US military and the Iraqi militias to work out. It also needed the complete drawdown by Al-Sadr. Anyone who believed that it would work was a pretty hardcore hawk.

by vcalzone 2008-07-08 02:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Bush's Strategy

The surge was a one in a million shot of a working strategy

Don't quit your dayjob to become a vegas bookie, is my advice.

I was against the Iraq invasion, but never doubted that the surge would work.  I guess I saw thru the BS thrown around by the hard left, of which I am not a member.

by rankles 2008-07-08 02:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Bush's Strategy

Yeah, you and Joe Lieberman. Can't think of one other Dem who was pushing for it. I don't believe you. Frankly, I have no reason to.

by vcalzone 2008-07-08 02:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Bush's Strategy

But this is enough. I'll drop it and concede your point. In no way are you a Republican, even though you were for the surge when Iraq was in shambles. And accepting that as fact, you are also the smartest blogger on this board, as you inexplicably predicted the Anbar Awakening, Al-Sadr's pullback, Al Qaeda's failures. Despite having been wrong multiple times about the Democratic race and issues related to it in the last few months alone.

by vcalzone 2008-07-08 02:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Bush's Strategy

I wasn't 'pushing for it', you are being disingenuous.  I never said that.  So stop it with the lies.  I said I never doubted that it would work.  Imagine, sending 20 thousand troops in and taking the gloves off, of course it would result in Al Quaeda getting its butt kicked.

What surprises me is that you didn't think it would work.

by rankles 2008-07-08 03:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Bush's Strategy

Of course, as you're an extreme partisan and parrot whatever line you're being fed at the moment from your masters, it's not surprising.

I, however, am a progressive and a free thinker.

by rankles 2008-07-08 03:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Shifts?

"It seems to me that some Obama supporters might be going a bit overboard with their declarations that Obama has made "massive" shifts to the center..."

This diary exposed the fraud of that charge.

Love or hate where Obama is, it's where he's always been.

(And Rachel Maddow, on the first segment of Countdown last night, took apart the whole bogus smear that Obama has changed his position on Iraq while eliciting condemnation of the press from Dana Milbank and Richard Wolfe for being too lazy to do their homework, and instead repeating what they were spun in the daily McSame conference calls.)

by Beren 2008-07-07 10:37PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Shifts?

it's NOT where I was told he was at by the O-blogosphere during the primary. He won on one platform, and bashed HRC for many of the same nuances he's now hugging. sounds like old-politics to me. sorry if I won't get on the rationalising-apologising bandwagon to explain Obama's current positions.

by swissffun 2008-07-08 06:32AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Shifts?

"it's NOT where I was told he was at by the O-blogosphere during the primary."

It's what Obama tells you that matters. And, as the link I provided demonstrates, he's been consistent all along.

"sorry if I won't get on the rationalising-apologising bandwagon to explain Obama's current positions."

There's no need to apologize for supporting McBush. But for the sake of courtesy you should do it on a website which supports him.

by Beren 2008-07-08 08:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Shifts?

who's supporting 'McBush'- tatty slur. . . so now it's either with Obama or against him??? Sounds exactly like McBush mentality coming from your side there.

i can distrust and not like Obama without being a Bush hugger. Or is that concept too complicated for you?

by swissffun 2008-07-25 02:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Shifts?

You are the practical result of what you do. When you spout McSame's baseless attacks you're helping McSame. Or is that concept too complicated for you?

But the line of attack you're defending is already sooooo yesterday -- and it failed. You should have moved on to attacking Obama for not voting for the surge by now.

by Beren 2008-07-25 07:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Shifts?

listen, where the hell you pull McBush out of my original comments is pure dementia. you must be seeing that Chimera everywhere there isn't Obama-love. Sorry, but pointing out flaws, mistakes, uncertainties with Obama is not only permissable but it's the tradition of the Democratic party to not goose-step behind a personality. your attempts to put me into some bizarre McBush camp are just an offensive way to try to put down any whiff of dissenting opinion.  

by swissffun 2008-07-25 09:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Shifts?

Scott McClellan revealed today that FOX NOIZ gets its talking points directly from the WH. When will it be revealed that you get yours directly from FOX NOIZ?

by Beren 2008-07-25 10:32PM | 0 recs
I agree that

the argument that Obama has shifted on Iraq is largely false.  He has always said that the tactics used to implement the strategy of withdrawal would depend on the facts on the ground and done in consultation with the commanders on the ground but that the strategy of immediately withdrawing troops upon inauguration is not subject to change.  Right?

Even if all these positions, with the exception of FISA, were his positions all along, he should probably move leftward for a couple weeks.  When he has people like Natasha Chart, a blogger on this site who was fully in his corner despite supporting Clinton in the primaries, worried, Obama may want to stop using "moderate" language and start delivering some "liberal" steamwinders.

by Blazers Edge 2008-07-07 11:10PM | 0 recs
Serious question: What's the difference
between what Obama is doing (and thus is good) and what Hillary was doing (and thus was bad) (except, of course, Hillary signaled in advance that she'd use nuance to appeal to the middle)?  
Who was that tall guy at the JJ dinner in Iowa who said that if we shift positions "from fear of losing" "we will lose"?
by kosnomore 2008-07-08 04:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Serious question: What's the difference

I will answer your question as I see it, but I am only saying this because the question was asked.  My answer may make you mad, but that's not my goal.

You want an early Obama supporter's rationale?  Here's mine:

Throughout Obama's life he has shown a tolerance for conservatives and a willingness to engage them.  His time as president of Harvard Law Review, for example, is pretty interesting.  He managed to get elected by promising the minority of conservative members that he'd treat them well.  He did.  His life seems consistent.  He's a liberal who listens to conservatives and perhaps shares some of their temperment without sharing much, if any, of their philosophy.  Bottom line?  This is what he's been doing pretty much as long as he's been a politically-aware adult.

Senator Clinton?  After her conversion from a Goldwater Girl to a Democrat she was pretty obviously a pugnacious liberal, a fighter as well as a dreamer.  Her time as First Lady, especially the first few years, evidenced a disdain for conservatives, even conservative Democrats.  Her failures regarding health care reform scare the hell out of me.  There is no good reason for her to have treated Cooper as she did.

Hillary Clinton strikes me as more consistently liberal, far more orthodox.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, as far as I see it.  I want to be clear here.  When it comes to the actual policy stuff I think I agree with her perhaps a little more than I do with Obama.  The problem is its hard to know exactly what her philosophy is anymore because as soon as she made it to the Senate she began to craft a voting record which is very, very hawkish.  There's nothing wrong, necessarily, with that either.

It does, however, come across as very dishonest to me.  For someone whom I'd always considered a brilliant liberal fighter Senator Clinton has made far too many calculated moves to the center.  Her position on the gas tax holiday is a recent example.

In sum?  Obama is behaving as he always has.  Clinton made what I saw as a calculated move to change her entire philosophy (upon entering the Senate) in order to later run for President.  If I had to pick (and I did have to pick) then I'll take the candidate who's being true to himself.

Besides, I'm an inclusive thinker myself.  Like follows like.

by Reaper0Bot0 2008-07-08 04:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Serious question: What's the difference

give me HRC any day! we've been yammering for a fighting liberal-progressive for years in the blogs. One comes along - as you described - and get's bashed. I just will not ever understand that.

by swissffun 2008-07-08 06:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Serious question: What's the difference

I tried to explain it.  Please give me that much.

by Reaper0Bot0 2008-07-08 06:45AM | 0 recs

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