Obama Shifts? Rhetoric vs. Policy, Strategy vs. Tactics
by Big Blue, Mon Jul 07, 2008 at 09:41:43 PM EDT
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.