Why Obama has to "Flip" On Iraq - and Why We Need to Take a Deep Breath
by Reaper0Bot0, Tue Jul 01, 2008 at 02:16:20 PM EDT
I think that these quiet murmurs about the possibility that Senator Obama may "flip" on Iraq are correct.
You guys are gonna go absolutely ballistic when that happens, so I want to share my thoughts on this one, because it won't mean what a lot of you will probably think it means. I'm not saying you're children (far from it) but your passion will mean that you miss a very obvious signal, and you won't read the details of what's suggested.
And that's a terrible mistake...
First, my bona fides. I opposed this war before it started. I opposed this war when it started. I opposed this war as it "wound down." I opposed this war when we declared "mission accomplished." I opposed this war throughout the insurgency. People questioned my patriotism. People questioned my sanity. It was hell. But as Winston Churchill said, "when you're going through hell - keep going!" I was loud in my opposition.
I've since had occasion to look at some things I posted in 2002 and 2003. A lot of what I said wound up happening, and a lot of my analysis of Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda turned out to be correct. I feel vindicated. This war was absolutely about the dumbest fucking thing we could have done at the time. I would give nearly anything that it might never have occurred. I am being very serious about this. There isn't a single person here who's opposition was stronger.
This is why you should listen to me now.
I expect Senator Obama will give a speech in the next few weeks that will include language something like the following:
Conditions in Iraq have improved greatly. Those improvements exist because President Bush has replaced incompetent or wrong-headed officers and civilian leaders with competent realists who have learned from our mistakes. These improvements have been costly and they are not enough by the standards we set for the Surge.
That being said, the situation is improving. It may not be enough. It may never be enough. However, we should be willing to help fix that which we broke. Most of this mess is our fault. As such, I vow to the Iraqi people that we will not rush out the door and leave a disaster much like the one the British left in and of Palestine when they themselves left. We owe the Iraq people more than that.
This will probably mean two things:
1) A phased withdrawal
2) Some force remaining in Iraq. That force will focus on training and support roles, not combat.
Notice something here? Some kind of subtlety? I'll spell it out for you: that's already his position! About the only substantive "flip" Obama would have to make is to modify the speed of the withdrawal. Currently he wants it to be roughly a brigade a month. He could instead say something like "we'd still like to get out that quickly, but we will modify the rate of withdrawal with the needs on the ground."
If keeping 10,000-50,000 troops in Iraq for several more years can help the Iraqis rebuild from this hell we've visited on them, and if the Iraqis honestly want our help, then I think we owe them some level of military assistance. The problem in Iraq isn't that we have any troops at all there. The problem in Iraq is that we've gone from conquering it to occupying it to policing it.
If the Iraqis can do the bulk of the work (and shortly they're going to have to, one way or another), then I have absolutely no problem with keeping a small but significant American force in Iraq so long as we're not the ones doing the fighting. No patrols, no policing, none of that. If we're there to train their guys and to support them in large or complicated missions as needed then I can live with that.
We never should have gone into Iraq, but as Barack Obama has already said, we need to be as careful getting ouf Iraq as we were careless going into it. The Surge has not accomplished what we'd hoped, but it has helped give us some small measure of hope that we won't leave Iraq as a total nightmare. We cannot afford the blood and treasure we've spent, at the rate we've spent it. That doesn't mean we can't afford any level of involvement.
If Obama pivots in the way I've described he will have changed very little about his plan. No sane observer really expects every single American soldier out of Iraq in the next several years. The question has really been on of scope. What exactly is our mission there? What resources will we commit to it?
My Uncle's already served over there. One of my closest buddies is there right now. I know how important this is. However, it isn't just about us. The people who supported this idiotic endeavor are responsible for making the mess. We should be adult enough to try to clean it up, if we can.
Such a pivot would really be more about rhetoric than it would about policy. Obama could dress it up in language of "committment" to the Iraqi people. He could make it sound like he's moving hard to the center on this because the situation has changed. Well, folks, the situation has changed. I didn't think it would.
Who would the audience be for such an announcement? None of us. We are already on-board the Obamabus, as it were. This would be to show the center and even the Right that Obama isn't held hostage by his own party or his own past. A lot of us demand an immediate withdrawal as if the Iraq of 2008 was fundamentally the same as the Iraq of 2006. General Petreaus and Secretary Gates are phenomenally talented and driven people. One of the biggest crimes of this Administration was to wait so fucking long to put people like them in charge. However, they're there, and it's helping out considerably.
A lot of the netroots will freak out, if this happens. A lot of you will take this as a betrayal. It wouldn't be. It would be, as I've already said, mostly rhetorical (while still being honest). His position has been pragmatic, and that's why I love the guy. Remember, Bill Richardson was the only credible candidate who committed to a complete and utter withdrawal of our forces.
Only Richard Nixon could go to China. We say that without, a lot of us, really understanding what that means. Tricky Dick was death itself on Communists, be they American or foreign. No one in their right mind could accuse him of being soft on the Red Menace. Perhaps only Barack Obama can tell the Democratic Party that we have an obligation (one that our party did not seek) to the Iraqi people and that some small but significant number of our troops are going to stay there for awhile longer.
His opposition to that mistake was real, and on the record. That doesn't mean he can't try to correct it, even if such a correction continues a mission that started off for the worst of reasons. If we can help whilst cutting our fatalities, our number of troops stationed there, cutting our costs, and above all taking the American face off of the Iraqi government, then I think we should.
And even if you don't, I'm begging you to look at the substance of any such speech or proposal before you react. His position can be presented in any number of ways with little if any change. Be mature adults and digest whatever comes before you react.
Thank you and be well.