Why Obama has to "Flip" On Iraq - and Why We Need to Take a Deep Breath

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.

Tags: context, Iraq, patience, sanity, Soylent Green (all tags)

Comments

24 Comments

Tips?

For nuance?  For a willingness to understand that this isn't just about being right, but about doing right?

by Reaper0Bot0 2008-07-01 02:16PM | 0 recs
Re: Tips?

I give you credit for putting up this diary and acknowledging the incredible work the military is doing in Iraq , as well as Gen . Peatraeus .

Like I have said for a while now both Clinton/Obama have been less than candid on Iraq and it has been very disappointing .

by lori 2008-07-01 02:26PM | 0 recs
Re: Tips?

I consider a TR by ChitownDenny a badge of honor, frankly.

by Reaper0Bot0 2008-07-01 02:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Tips?

Just gave you another badge, between friends....

by ChitownDenny 2008-07-01 02:30PM | 0 recs
Re: Why Obama has to "Flip"
Bull Shit!  He's the Dem nominee because of his position(s) on Iraq and now he's Hillary.  
I call Bull Shit!  Stand up for a principle, or get out of the way.
by ChitownDenny 2008-07-01 02:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Why Obama has to "Flip"

Did you read a single thing I wrote, sir?

by Reaper0Bot0 2008-07-01 02:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Why Obama has to "Flip"

I would rec (good diary) but since y

You seem to have only gotten recs of the trolls who follow me around TRing my comments, I will refrain.

Good diary, even if I don't agree.  Enjoy your 'progressive' candidate.

by rankles 2008-07-01 11:17PM | 0 recs
Is there any instance in which you disagree

or disapprove of Obama or something he says or something he proposes?

by catfish2 2008-07-01 02:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Is there any instance in which you disagree

In case you had not noticed, I just laid out my own position, and what I thought Obama might do.  To answer your question, yes there are several.

I disagree with his position on FISA.
I disagree with his position on faith-based programs.
I disagree with his handling of the press, keeping them at arms-length.
I disagree with his position on trade.

I disagree with his position on a lot of things.  It's the whole package I approve of.  And i'm not the only voter, either.

by Reaper0Bot0 2008-07-01 02:26PM | 0 recs
Well

I'll be pretty pissed off, but it won't cost him my support.

by NewOaklandDem 2008-07-01 02:25PM | 0 recs
Interesting...

"His position has been pragmatic, and that's why I love the guy."

Hillary the pragmatist was a demon, the devil incarnate, a triangulator, a panderer, republican lite.
Obama the pragmatist is....brilliant.

I get it....

by Jjc2008 2008-07-01 02:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Interesting...

I didn't consider her a pragmatist so much as a dishonest panderer.  The policy results may be the same, but the motives are entirely different.

by Reaper0Bot0 2008-07-01 02:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Interesting...

You should work for MSNBC.(Maybe you already do.)

by LakersFan 2008-07-01 03:26PM | 0 recs
Oh I see ...

you are a mind reader....or is it a soul reader.
YOU know what someone thinks and feels....
are you God?????

I am not a particularly religious person despite having spent years in religious schools.  And from what I learned, only God can know your mind and heart and intentions...and yet you know that Hillary's intentions were.....evil, self serving and that Barrack's are wonderful and holy and good.

Should we all bow to you now?

by Jjc2008 2008-07-01 03:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Oh I see ...

No.

Just tell me when Hillary Clinton went from being a true and hard-fighting progressive to a moderate centrist hawk?

Any chance you might remember when that happened?  It was, oh I don't know, right around the time she got into the Senate!  When she started crafting a voting record that would help her run for President.

by Reaper0Bot0 2008-07-01 03:33PM | 0 recs
You did not answer the question

and as far as I am concerned you are not only sanctimonious in your "personal assessment of one's thinking, conscience" as if you know (when you don't), you come off as a total hypocrite.

Already you are spinning all of Obama's "changes" in direction.  YOU KNOW he is sincere and YOU KNOW Hillary is a liar.

Give me a break. I give no more credence to judgmental, "I am so righteous" types on the left than I do to the ones on the right.

Hillary was never a perfect person; she made mistakes but her goal was to represent the people who elected her.  You have no proof whatsoever of her or anyone being insincere.  That is a right wing tactic...labeling people as good or evil, sincere or insincere, self serving or not.  You don't get to do that......no true progressive ever assumes they have the right to demonize and condemn those who look or think differently.

by Jjc2008 2008-07-01 03:57PM | 0 recs
We'll see how this plays out....

Will see where this lands, but I think Kos will be more upset over FISA and Religion, so maybe the Kossacks will follow his lead.

The Faith based initiatives bother me more, anyone paying attention knows it's going to take a while to get out of Iraq.

But, the bottom line is, this war has bankrupted us, and wrecked the combat readiness of the the army and the marines?

Obama BETTER do something about that? And, he better start drawing down troops ASAP, if it takes 16 months to a year, so be it.

BUT, if he says he wants to delay the start of the withdrawl six months....

by WashStateBlue 2008-07-01 02:29PM | 0 recs
Re: We'll see how this plays out....

That's all fine, and I largely agree with you.

But the fact that he opposed it in 2003, the fact that he was right then does not mean he cannot use any judgment now.

by Reaper0Bot0 2008-07-01 02:34PM | 0 recs
It is already in the hidden language...

The Republican talking line lately has been that Obama will call for a "gradual" withdrawal instead of an "immediate" one. Which is, without a doubt, his position all along. But it will be presented as a flip-flop, undoubtedly by some of the folks above who have continually looked for reasons to not like Obama.

You are right on all counts. It is such dangerous ground, though, because the surge was something McCain advocated before Bush did it. A full reversal would be an endorsement of McCain's judgment. Truth is, when McCain said that, there was no Anbar Awakening, there was no sign that the conditions were right. A RAND report said that in order for a surge to even slow violence down, it would have to be MASSIVE.

Obama should continue to call for withdrawal, because it continues to be SO necessary from a fiscal and military perspective. He could do something as simple as changing the end date. But his line of reasoning needs to be military preparedness. There are bigger fish than the peacekeeping role we are taking in Iraq right now. Not just Afghanistan, we have to be prepared for Iran/Israel as well.

by vcalzone 2008-07-01 02:35PM | 0 recs
Not gonna happen

He is not going to "flip" on Iraq, where did this nonsense start? He has always said we need to be as careful getting out as we were getting in, maintaining that will not be flipping, and that will continue to be his position.

Nor has there been such an improvement on the ground there that he needs any sort of public policy alteration on Iraq.

by Davidsfr 2008-07-01 03:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Not gonna happen

You did notice how I put "flip" in "quotation marks" in that "title" of mine?

by Reaper0Bot0 2008-07-01 03:16PM | 0 recs
if Obama backs off Iraq

then he should and will feel a backlash. Because then his positions on a host of issues (including the big ones) will not be any different from that of John McCain. I see no reason why progressives have to hold their nose and vote Republican-lite.

by tarheel74 2008-07-01 06:32PM | 0 recs
by souvarine 2008-07-03 02:13PM | 0 recs
Re: You called it

Thank you for noticing.

by Reaper0Bot0 2008-07-03 03:48PM | 0 recs

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