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"My Plan for Iraq":
In today's NYT, Barack Obama has an op-ed with that title.
bornyesterday (mail) (www):
So...is he going to bring our troops home from South Korea then, too? What about Germany?
7.14.2008 1:56pm
Mad Max:
"Whether we're winning or losing, my plan for Iraq is to run away as fast as possible! No matter what the situation, the right answer remains the same."

I also liked the statement in one paragraph that al Qaeda has grown in power, and then in the next paragraph, that al Qaeda has been greatly weakened. Well, which is it? And how has the AQ threat grown, exactly?
7.14.2008 1:58pm
Adam B. (www):
I like this blog better when it focuses on legal issues.
7.14.2008 2:01pm
GV:
bornyesterday, last time I checked, american troops weren't being killed in combat in South Korea and Germany.

I think one of Obama's strongest points in the editorial is his comment that returning more sovereignty back to the Iraqi people is in no way a "surrender" and it's puzzling why anyone would disagree with him on that point. If Obama is elected president, it will be interesting to see if conservative commentators continue to push the "surrender" angle, which will give the insurgents a propaganda victory.
7.14.2008 2:04pm
GV:
Mad Max, there is nothing inconsistent with the idea that Al Qaeda has weakened in Iraq but become stronger globally over the past year and a half. If you'll re-read that portion of the editorial, you'll see the distinction.
7.14.2008 2:07pm
Mad Max:
It is a false distinction, and also flatly wrong. AQ has not become stronger globally over the past year and a half.
7.14.2008 2:16pm
Jim at FSU (mail):
I hate to agree with Obama on anything, but I have always thought it was stupid for us to go into Iraq while Osama and his buddies were running around in Afghanistan.

That being said, the correct principle doesn't always lead to the correct practical result. Jimmy Carter sounded great in principle too, and we still haven't undone the damage from his brief presidency.
7.14.2008 2:17pm
Matthew in Austin (mail):
GV - As one who often agrees with the "conservative commentators" who push the surrender angle, I think that the success of the surge ironically plays into Obama's hands. I would have never voted for Obama, because I don't want us to blow our best chance for a somewhat stable democracy in the middle east and I don't want him pulling out our troops and preventing that from happening. But progress in Iraq has been happening so fast this year that it now is possible my hope and Obama's goals could coexist - an Obama-style accelerated troop pull out, and an Iraqi government strong enough to survive indefinitely without us.

And once I start looking past Iraq, McCain stops looking like that great a president. I could vote Democrat for the first time in my life this year.

-Matthew
7.14.2008 2:18pm
josh:
GV beat me to it. bornyesterday, there's no comparison to Germany and South Korea (or at least not until suicide bombs go off in those countries on a regular basis). MadMax, Obama's point is, and always has been, that our war in Iraq has strengthened Al Qaeda globally, as we're seeing now in Pakistan and Afghanistan. That the Iraqi people have decided to embrace Shiite Iran and take on Sunni Al Qaeda is not inconsistent with Al Qaeda's growing strength globally.
7.14.2008 2:22pm
OrinKerr:
Adam,

The war in Iraq is the most important issue in American politics today, and Barack Obama is currently the frontruner for the Presidency. Given that, I thought it was worth an 11-word post linking to Obama's elaboration of his position. Of course, I understand if you would rather not be inconvenienced by such things; that's the problem with a free blog, I guess.
7.14.2008 2:23pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Our troops in West Germany and South Korea are there principally to protect against external threat. (For Germany, "were" not "are".) In Iraq, our troops are forecast for the role of Soviet troops in East Germany: to prop up the local government of our own making and preference, and to menace neighboring countries with a different world view we find hostile (but the occupied local may prefer).
7.14.2008 2:23pm
jack brennen (mail):
"So...is he going to bring our troops home from South Korea then, too? What about Germany?"

If the South Korean and German governments call for a time table to remove our troops I'd assume he would.
7.14.2008 2:23pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):

It is a false distinction, and also flatly wrong. AQ has not become stronger globally over the past year and a half.
I love how lawyers argue in the alternative. It can't be both a false distinction and in incorrect one, that's simply illogical. It can, however, be both a valid distinction and a correct one, and I would say evidence suggests that it is both. From July 2007

The release of a new [NIE] report Tuesday that says Al Qaeda has reorganized to pre-9/11 strength and is preparing for a major US strike has sparked debate among government officials and observers about the Bush administration's foreign policy and counterterrorism efforts. The National Intelligence Estimate assessment indicates that the Islamic terrorist organization's rise has been bolstered by the Iraq war and the failure to counter extremism in Pakistan's tribal areas.
Now, I admit George Bush disagreed with the NIE. I think we can let Bush's record on Middle East intelligence speak for itself, don't you?
7.14.2008 2:31pm
Houston Lawyer:
Is he going to invade Pakistan now as he once promised or was that just bluster to sound tough?

Jimmy Carter at least didn't have the prior example of Jimmy Carter to learn from.
7.14.2008 2:33pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Both parties are in a bit of Catch-22.

Republicans: Things are going splendidly in Iraq. There has never in human history been more progress towards any goal then there has been in Iraq recently. However, things are so unstable that if we were to leave, it would create a genocidal "bloodbath" that would set the region back for a century.

Democrats: Iraq is a constant killing ground. It is a factory that eats American tax dollars and creates American widows. It is time for us to leave this place, because Iraqis are ready to run things on their own.


I think the Dems will get the upper hand by following their recent strategy. Begrudgingly agree that the surge has gone well, and use it as proof that we need to get the hell out of there. The whole thing has been such a debacle that conceding success with the surge won't hurt the Dems.
7.14.2008 2:33pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
Oops! Bloodbath was meant to link here.
7.14.2008 2:35pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I was not surprised at BHO's aim to move troops to Afghanistan. After all, everyone on the left, excluding the al Qaeda management, seems to believe that is where the real war is. But Pakistan? Last I knew, they were a sovereign nation that was officially allied with us. I think that it would be the first time in our history that we unilaterally moved our troops into an ally's country.

I disagree that the fight with al Qaeda has been primarily in Afghanistan and Pakistan over the last couple of years, and I think that OBL and the al Qaeda management would agree with me (based on their statements). It may be moving back there, due to the horrendous losses that they have incurred in Iraq over the last 18 months.

Also note that BHO seems to mistake the Taliban for al Qaeda. While they were, and possibly still are, allied. They are not the same organization. Indeed, it was only the Taliban's refusal to turn over al Qaeda figures after 9/11 that caused us to be taken out. In other words, we had to go through the Taliban to get to al Qaeda. It is the Taliban, and not al Qaeda, that has somewhat increased their resistance over the last year or two and are causing more troubles than before.

I also disagree with Obama's time table. A time table, like he seems to want (though he fudges a lot here) is just a tool for our (and the Iraqis') enemies. If they can just wait out Obama's 12-18 months, then they can come back out and fight.
7.14.2008 2:42pm
Loophole1998 (mail):
I think Adam was just giving you some free market research. Nothing wrong with reader feedback.
7.14.2008 2:45pm
NatSecLawGuy:
This SOFA negotiation is going to be interesting to watch given that the Iraqis are touting a policy preference that has been explicitly rejected by the Bush Administration. In fact I believe one senior Iraqi negoatiator said it was a key point in the negotiation that there be a timetable. Given the New Yorker cover, I should claim conspiracy . . .
7.14.2008 2:45pm
Fury:

I hate to agree with Obama on anything, but I have always thought it was stupid for us to go into Iraq while Osama and his buddies were running around in Afghanistan.


I've always believed that way too much emphasis is placed on Osama bin Laden in the big picture. He certainly is a High Value Target, but if/when he is killed, there will be someone to take his place. There are many on Capital Hill that place too much emphasis on bin Laden the man versus Al Qaeda the organization.
7.14.2008 2:47pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I think the Dems will get the upper hand by following their recent strategy. Begrudgingly agree that the surge has gone well, and use it as proof that we need to get the hell out of there. The whole thing has been such a debacle that conceding success with the surge won't hurt the Dems.
Let me suggest though that cutting and running at this point would be similar to what happened in Vietnam, declaring victory and then running away.

I would suggest rather that just a little more patience, and the willingness to disconnect from the pledge to withdraw unilaterally would be more beneficial. The Iraqis want us out, just not quite yet. And ditto for many of us. Instead of declaring victory and running away, we should pull out as fast as the conditions on the ground warrant. That means pulling most of the troops out of each province as it gains control over its security.
7.14.2008 2:50pm
J. Nicholas Smith:
After we invaded Afghanistan, members of Al Qaeda (most notably Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was already wanted for the murder of an American diplomat) fled Afghanistan and set up shop in Iraq. We should have, according to Obama, ignored this and simply continued operations in Afghanistan while Al Qaeda entrenched itself organizationally in Iraq.
7.14.2008 2:50pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
I would suggest rather that just a little more patience, and the willingness to disconnect from the pledge to withdraw unilaterally would be more beneficial. The Iraqis want us out, just not quite yet.


Well, the op-ed we're discusses cites the end of 2010 as the goal for final pullout.

And when we left Vietnam, the Commies overran the place. (Which was predictable.) I don't think the same thing will happen in Iraq.
7.14.2008 2:52pm
SJon (mail):
Are you really going to cite to a NIE report from one year ago as evidence that al-qaeda has reorganized to pre-9/11 strength?

Obama is trying to play both sides of the issue (as usual). Under his superior judgment, we would never have gone to war in the first place and he would have already withdrawn all the troops instead of instituting the new surge strategy last winter. At the time he emphatically stated that the surge would not work. He has been proven to be 100% wrong, and now tries to equivocate by moving the goalposts back farther for conditions of victory. The fact is, if we had followed his "judgment," Iraq would still be a quagmire today, whereas the surge and change in tactics on the ground advocated by McCain has resulted in incredible progress.

On the Afghanistan/Pakistan front, the undercommitment of troops by our NATO allies and the "peace" agreements negotiated by Pakistan with the Taliban and al Qaeda are the main roadblocks to achieving a similar victory in that region. You don't defeat a terrorist group by signing a peace treaty. They will just use the period of calm to regroup and rearm, as Hamas has done everytime Israel has been stupid enough to halt military actions in Gaza.
7.14.2008 2:52pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I hate to agree with Obama on anything, but I have always thought it was stupid for us to go into Iraq while Osama and his buddies were running around in Afghanistan.
I disagree. Besides, by most indications, they haven't been in Afghanistan for exquite awhile. Rather, they are more likely holed up in caves in the tribal areas of Pakistan adjacent to Afghanistan.

Let me suggest that getting OBL was more an ego thing, and maybe an excuse to go back to how things were before 9/11, than any real strategic advantage getting OBL and his top management. They haven't been in a position to train up the next generation of terrorists for quite a while now.
7.14.2008 2:55pm
Laura S.:
The headline on this should be: "Obama adopts McCain's position on Iraq".

I'm a bit shocked that Mr. New Politics would be so brazen in misstating his opponents policy. This is really a duplicitous piece of work.
7.14.2008 2:55pm
Oren:
But Pakistan? Last I knew, they were a sovereign nation that was officially allied with us. I think that it would be the first time in our history that we unilaterally moved our troops into an ally's country.
Pakistan's tribal areas have always been autonomous and the central government's power there always tenuous. The legal concept of sovereignty fails to capture the de facto independence enjoyed by these areas.
7.14.2008 3:00pm
iain (mail):
1. That NIE report is from before the surge. It is quite likely that that most of those resurgent AQ fighters are the ones we've been killing by the bushel in Iraq.

2. It's bothersome that the two military leaders Obama references in the quote, he completely misconstrues their advice. Obama claims that Dubik claims Iraq can "assume responsibility for security in 2009", when Dubik really claims Iraq will BEGIN to be ready to assume responsibility then. Obama is ready to rush the timetable for a withdrawal despite this. Second, he uses the Mullen quote that we can't finish the job in Afghanistan until we reduce our commitment to Iraq to support the contention that this meets our broader strategic goals. Nowhere, I believe, in Mullen's statement did he ever claim that withdrawing troops from Iraq help achieve our "broader strategic goals" even if it is important to finishing the job in Afghanistan. It shows Obama is as willing to distort the advice of his generals as Bush has been.

3. The rest of the article is filled with half-truths and mischaracterizations. He "opposed the war" from the comforts of the Illinois State Capitol. He opposed the surge because he thought that it would strain the military, and not because he didn't think it would succeed. Iraq has never been the central front in the war on AQ, even though we seem to find an awful lot of their operatives there and they themselves have identified winning in Iraq as being critical. He says the US should remain in a limited fashion in Iraq for limited anti-AQ operations despite no indication the Iraqi government would allow this.
7.14.2008 3:01pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
The war in Afghanistan as the right and righteous war, as opposed to the stupid war in Iraq, is a meme which will last until we start fighting really seriously in Afghanistan. Especially most especially if we use troops there we had been using in Iraq.
Then Afghanistan will be a quagmire, the wrong place, the wrong time, et tedious cetera.
Just shift the A word for the I word and recycle the anti-Iraq war statements. Save trees and pixels.
IOW, the stout statements of Afghanistan first are...bogus. It was the way to seem anti Iraq war without being seen clearly as a surrender fan.
Once we have only one war going on, the issue will be a bit clearer.
7.14.2008 3:01pm
Oren:
Let me suggest that getting OBL was more an ego thing, and maybe an excuse to go back to how things were before 9/11, than any real strategic advantage getting OBL and his top management.
There's also the small matter of bringing to justice a man responsible for the death of American citizens on American soil.
7.14.2008 3:01pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Let me also suggest that concentration on Pakistan is a can of worms, probably even more so than Iran. Pakistan has a large population, a decently good army, nuclear weapons, and a lot of unrest, much of it religious. We don't want to go to war with them over al Qaeda, and we don't really want any of our troops there. Putting U.S. troops in that country would just incite religious violence (and greatly strengthen al Qaeda). It is dicey enough that we are shooting terrorists in Pakistan from the air on occasion. It would be much worse if we violated their sovereignty.
7.14.2008 3:01pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Pakistan's tribal areas have always been autonomous and the central government's power there always tenuous. The legal concept of sovereignty fails to capture the de facto independence enjoyed by these areas.
De facto is fine. But I suspect that de jure is what counts here, and that the Pakistanis would take it as an act of war if we were to introduce troops there.
7.14.2008 3:04pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
There's also the small matter of bringing to justice a man responsible for the death of American citizens on American soil.
No doubt. But at what cost? Setting Pakistan afire for jihad against the American crusaders would not, in my view, be worth the cost.
7.14.2008 3:06pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
The idea that AQ-in-Iraq has been weakened while AQ as a whole has been strengthened (nine Americans dead in Afghanistan the other day) shouldn't be that hard for people of ordinary intelligence to grasp.

The surge has done very little that we can see about AQ worldwide. After all, if they don't like it in Iraq, where they seem to have blundered by alienating their most natural allies, they can go somewhere else, and probably have.

Incidentally, the idea that most of the people we kill in Iraq are AQ operatives is silly. Indeed, when asked, our armed forces are seldom able to produce more than a handful of non-Iraqis.

The surge was a stopgap measure to enable Iraq to make some sort of political progress. It appears even our puppets have decided that Step One of this progress entails their utter rejection of the neocon/McCain permanent bases/hundred years occupation scenario, all the more reason for us to go.
7.14.2008 3:09pm
ejo:
pre-invasion, afghanistan was the "quagmire" that you mention, remember. the country had never been captured or occupied, even during the couple of hundred years of british occupation which was conveniently forgotten. I seem to recall the afghan winter would bring the invaders to their knees. thus, afghanistan as the good war is nonsense, much like the proposition that senior leaders of AQ would be stupid enough to stick around for killing and not move to areas more hospitable. by the way, has anyone seen obl lately-after all, we had goatherders being taken into custody for 5k bounties in afghanistan. am I to assume 100% loyalty with far higher 8 figure bounties for obl?
7.14.2008 3:13pm
Mike Keenan:
"The idea that AQ-in-Iraq has been weakened while AQ as a whole has been strengthened (nine Americans dead in Afghanistan the other day) shouldn't be that hard for people of ordinary intelligence to grasp."

Those nine were killed by Taliban, no AQ. The distinction shouldn't be too hard for "people of ordinary intelligence to grasp".
7.14.2008 3:15pm
Josh E (mail):
I'm always slightly put off by people who attribute all progress in Iraq to "the surge".

Don't you think that any recent decline in violence is also the result of, in addition to whatever impact the surge has had, among other things: ethnic cleansing having run its course in many areas, the mass exodus of people from Iraq resulting in huge numbers of refugees in neighboring countries, the buying off of various Sunni tribes through awakening council-style ventures, the cease fire the Sadrists were/are abiding by, etc...

Has there really been the type of progress, political or otherwise, that indicates that the country has moved beyond being a powder keg waiting for another spark?
7.14.2008 3:22pm
Constantin:
Obama on the Surge:

January 2007
I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse.
July 2008

In the 18 months since President Bush announced the surge, our troops have performed heroically in bringing down the level of violence. New tactics have protected the Iraqi population, and the Sunni tribes have rejected Al Qaeda — greatly weakening its effectiveness.
7.14.2008 3:22pm
EIDE_Interface (mail):
Mike:

Either way(Taliban or AQ) it's a quagmire and we should pull out every last solider from the Middle East NOW.
7.14.2008 3:24pm
anonymouseducator:
The piece says that AQ has become more of threat since 9/11 but has been weakened in the past 18 months. There is nothing contradictory about that. Inaccurate maybe.
7.14.2008 3:28pm
Extraneus (mail):
With all due respect, why would anyone value Obama's plan for Iraq? Is there any reason to believe it's honest, in terms of its strategic value to the US or its committment to the (recently liberated) people of Iraq?

I can see that Obama needs to somehow get ahead of the criticism that his vaunted foreign policy judgement wasn't so great when it came to the surge, and that his constantly changing positions are about to catch up with his formerly consistant position on withdrawal, but this latest recalibration of his surrender option is really only meant for the rubes, isn't it?

Naturally, we all know that Iraq was never a threat, and that the war was actually fought for oil, but if AQ is really stronger somewhere else in the world than they were in Iraq in 2006, would Obama be willing to confront them there instead?

Personally, I think he should just be quiet about Iraq. The situation is resolving itself, no thanks to him or his allies.
7.14.2008 3:30pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Hey, Mike, Al Qaeda and the Taliban have a historical working relationship, are hiding out in much the same geographical area, and share common theocratic goals. So it's safe to say that when we are attacked by the Taliban, it's in furtherance of AQ goals. I know this is hard to figure out for people who think AQ worked with secular dictator Saddam Hussein, but try harder. A lot of lives depend on it.
7.14.2008 3:33pm
gab:
Extraneus says:


Personally, I think he should just be quiet about Iraq. The situation is resolving itself, no thanks to him or his allies.


I say, there wouldn't be a "situation" in Iraq if it hadn't been for Bush, McCain and their allies.
7.14.2008 3:38pm
Perseus (mail):
The war in Iraq is the most important issue in American politics today,

"It's the economy, stupid." That is, if you follow opinion polls like a slick politician. Of course, insofar as conditions improve in Iraq, the less important an issue it becomes to the broader public.
7.14.2008 3:39pm
Troof (mail):
I don't get why this blog avoids politics at all costs when negative news comes out about the Bush Administration, but is obsessed with Obama. Oh, wait, yeah I do.

Wasn't this a law blog?
7.14.2008 3:43pm
deathsinger:
Orin,

Adam B. is quite aware of Senator Obama, as evidenced by this masterpiece. He is more than a little biased about Obama.
7.14.2008 3:45pm
Mhoram:
I still fail to see why it matters if there is a democracy in Iraq. The only thing that really matters about that area of the world is oil - not human rights, not brutal dictators, not even falafel or belly dancers. Oil was cheaper when we could play back-and-forth dual containment with Iraq and Iran, supporting whichever brutal regime was the underdog at the time.

Why a democracy? Surely all of the libertarians/republicans who commence with the wailing and gnashing of teeth every time someone mentions the U.S. of A. as a democracy don't want that allegedly horrid form of government for the Iraqis, do they?

And if you are going to claim that human rights or whatever is the real reason to be in Iraq, please explain to me why we haven't invaded Myanmar, Central African Republic, Uganda, Venezuela, and so on ad nauseum.

Bill Clinton won the presidency on the idea of "It's the economy, stupid." And for a while, I thought Obama might actually have the stones to just declare victory and come home so that we can get on with the business of getting rich. But noooooo ... more and more it just looks like BHO is going to be Bush/McCain lite when it comes to warmongering and adventurism.

I'll either be casting my vote for Bob Barr or writing in Ron Paul.
7.14.2008 3:50pm
Careless:


I say, there wouldn't be a "situation" in Iraq if it hadn't been for Bush, McCain and their allies.


Because, of course, we didn't have a military presence there before the invasion. Nor were we enforcing an embargo and being blamed for the deaths of half a million Iraqi children as a result.

(because I'm pretty sure Sarcastro wouldn't have shown up to write this)
7.14.2008 4:00pm
OrinKerr:
I don't get why this blog avoids politics at all costs when negative news comes out about the Bush Administration, but is obsessed with Obama. Oh, wait, yeah I do.

Troof, I can't speak for my co-bloggers, but I am much more interested in the next administration than the lame duck one that is ending in a few months. I'm not sure why you think we are obsessed with Obama, though.
7.14.2008 4:03pm
Smokey:
Obama explains his position on Iraq.

Oh, and Oren: You didn't get the memo? bin Laden's dead. Courtesy of the U.S.A.F. in Tora Bora. Now you know.
7.14.2008 4:08pm
astrangerwithcandy (mail):

Maliki is a politician in a dynamic environment. I doubt anyone would find it surprising if he came out with a statement in a few weeks hedging on his recent pronouncement. If that happens and a continuing American presence is no longer a strategy "that runs contrary to the will of the Iraqi people" will there be a second op-ed?

FWIW, I think if Maliki is speaking in earnest and the violence is cycling down (for whatever reason), Obama is right in calling for the military to be withdrawn. I still think its a bit silly to put an op-ed like this out there when the winds can change so quickly.
7.14.2008 4:10pm
SATA_Interface:
I think Maliki is trying hard to distance himself from the Americans to strengthen his position and his group. When we leave and Sadr moves back towards taking control with his own faction and bankrolled by the Iranians, we want the Saudi-backed Sunnis of Maliki's group to be as solid as possible or another civil war will ensue.
7.14.2008 4:12pm
wfjag:
Too bad OBH missed the most compeling reason to cut and run in Iraq -- Israel has shown that it can conduct combat air operations at a distance equal to that of Israel to Iran and back. However, right now, with the US controlling the air space over Iraq, Israel needs US permission to end Iran's nuclear program (and Bush won't say "OK"). So, OBH solves the problem by getting the US out of the way. Of course, doing that will likely result in $140 per barrel oil look like the days of cheap oil. But, OBH has already answered that, too -- he says that by 2030 his programs will result in (un-named) alternative energy sources that will half the amount of oil the US imports. So, as long as you don't mind freezing in the dark and walking to work for 20 years, OBH has great ideas. All you need is faith, hope and change. Consequences are for others to worry about.
7.14.2008 4:17pm
rarango (mail):
What is clear to me that Obama quite wrongly predicted that a sectarian bloodbath would ensue from the surge. Of course, his faulty predictions were more than matched by some terrible administration predictions. The lesson should be to not commit yourself and defer to the situation on the ground and commanders' advice at the time a decision has to be made.

As for the timetable thing: the US is facing a UN mandate that will require a treaty or SOFA for US forces to remain in Iraq after the first of the year. The Maliki government knows full well they have the upper hand in these negotiations, and can afford to wait to see what kind of administration they might be dealing with. They, the Maliki Government, also understands, I think, they still need US support, although considerably less of it for some future period of time. I think they are simply drawing out the SOFA negotiaions to see what kind of deal they can get. They are awfully good about feigning no progress until suddenly a deal materializes. Polticians banking on an outcome now are likely to be stung later.
7.14.2008 4:20pm
psennett (mail):

That is why, on my first day in office, I would give the military a new mission: ending this war.

And that is why it is critically important that you never get to the Oval Office except for a photo op with President McCain. The military's mission is to win wars, and the end only comes with victory.


We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months.

I cannot see how people "of normal intelligence" (to quote dear Andrew) fail to see how establishing and publishing timetables is one of the most idiotic policies since the 55 mph speed limit. Yes, let's just give AQI and al-Sadr our itinerary, you know, just for planning purposes. You guys just have to sit it out for a year and a half or so, take a holiday, restock some RPGs, and then get back to us. Maddening shortsightedness.


I would consult with commanders on the ground and the Iraqi government to ensure that our troops were redeployed safely, and our interests protected.

This shows the absolute arrogance of the man. Yes, President Johnson Senator Obama, the war can be run best from Washington.


Ending the war is essential to meeting our broader strategic goals, starting in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the Taliban is resurgent and Al Qaeda has a safe haven. Iraq is not the central front in the war on terrorism, and it never has been.

No, Senator, winning the war is essential. Ending on an artifical timetable is quitting. You can put lipstick on a pig, and that don't make her pretty.

It is a fact that the Taliban and aQ are thick in the region. So redeploying to Okinawa (HT Congressman Murtha) would seem to be a bit of a stretch - especially since, I don't know, maybe deploying from a stable ally like Iraq might be an option?

And finally, Iraq is the central front in the GWOT because we made it so. Took out a bloodthirsty dictator with an affection for terrorism, disabled budding nuclear aspirations, and set up the flypaper to enable our brave military to kill tens of thousands of terrorists.


Unlike Senator McCain, I would make it absolutely clear that we seek no presence in Iraq similar to our permanent bases in South Korea, and would redeploy our troops out of Iraq and focus on the broader security challenges that we face.

This is the highlight of buffoonery. Protecting our faithful allies in Israel, providing a stable democracy in Iraq, and allowing a forward staging base in the region is exactly what best serves our interests. Of course, Senator Obama would be much more comfortable if our troops were staging from Springfield and Peoria.
7.14.2008 4:28pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
There is an old Army saying that no battle plan, no matter how well designed, survives first contact with the enemy. As for Obama, we have come to learn that no Obama position survives first contact with a negative poll.

Also,GV said:


Mad Max, there is nothing inconsistent with the idea that Al Qaeda has weakened in Iraq but become stronger globally over the past year and a half. If you'll re-read that portion of the editorial, you'll see the distinction.


That again sums up Mr. Obama. Ask him about any of his positions, his answer is usually like this:

"Of course I agree that we should [fill in conservative/Republican/right-wing position here]" However, what that being said, I would have done it differently by [fill in liberal/leftist/Democrat/Socialist position here}."

I am not a fan of McCain by any stretch, but like the majority of Americans come this November, I'll choose the old crazy dude who survived cancer twice over the so-called "young and fresh" candidate who is really nothing more than a one-World liberal who would see America down the river to please the people he truly wants love from, the Eurowimps and Middle East.
7.14.2008 4:30pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
Mhoram, we don't need democracy in Iraq. We need a visible and tangible example of individual and economic freedom in the mideast. This should inspire a Mesopotamian renaissance among the common people, which should ultimately decimate the willingness of those people to support terrorists in the first place.

It's not about Saddam, bin Laden, al Qaida, or the Taliban at all. It's about terrorism in general, which thrives in the mideast for one and only one reason: because the people are dirt-poor and have no hope of being anything else. By exporting freedom to Iraq, we're showing them the alternative, and over time this promise of freedom and hope will overrun the ignorance and violence we take for granted in the region.

Fundamentally, a suicide bomber is only willing to be a suicide bomber because there is no better alternative. This is because he has no real hope of earning more money in his lifetime than the oil barons will pay his family for sacrificing himself. If you raise the expected lifetime salary of these people, you raise the price of a suicide bomber, and eventually either the oil barons will no longer be willing to pay it... or the people will simply refuse to accept any price whatsoever. Either way, the end result is NO MORE SUICIDE BOMBERS, regardless of what name the faction has or what country they call home.

GW has said that history will remember him kindly, and I think it will. I think a couple decades down the road, when historians track the reason all the terrorists just up and disappeared, they'll come to this conclusion and say "holy crap, it was George Walker; who'da thunk it". Just like 25 years after Carter's dumbass executive order forbidding political assassination, the chickens came home to roost in the WTC towers. Trace the chain, and the trail leads right to Carter's doorstep - not that he could have known. Indeed, the first person in that chain that could have known was Bill Clinton, who simply didn't give a damn.

Obama is the first Democrat I've ever seen who isn't on the short list of "people who would totally bork the job of Commander-in-Chief". I think he'll actually be semi-competent in military matters, and probably more than semi-competent in economic ones. We need both of those, and McCain is fantastically weak on economics.
7.14.2008 4:52pm
LM (mail):
How disappointing. The whole op-ed was tried and true stump material. I actually hoped he'd use that kind of forum to dispense with the theme music and tell us his thinking on stuff we don't already know by heart. Or at least give a wonkier take on some stuff we do. Naive of me, I guess.

Don't get me wrong. I'm sure McCain would do likewise, and I don't blame either of them. It's painfully obvious that Message Discipline works. And I mean painfully. I so hate what a cartoon it's made of our politics. But I'd bet on witch trials to stage a comeback before Lincoln-Douglas style debates. So, inasmuch as I want Obama to win, I suppose I should be glad he stayed on message. But the truth is it took reading a few of the unhinged comments here to remind me I actually agree with pretty much everything he said (except the part about the locked-in timetable).
7.14.2008 4:54pm
Adam B. (www):
The war in Iraq is the most important issue in American politics today, and Barack Obama is currently the frontruner for the Presidency. Given that, I thought it was worth an 11-word post linking to Obama's elaboration of his position.

This has never been a blog about politics as far as I could tell, and I've been here since the start. It's a blog about the law, run by a group of bright libertarian/conservatives. Obviously, ultimately, the blog is "about" whatever you choose to blog about, but I think you dilute the brand (and generally introduce disruptive comments) when you open it up to this stuff.
7.14.2008 5:18pm
JK:
It may not be a "blog about politics," but they've always included some political blogging.
7.14.2008 5:42pm
Student:
Let me summarize:

"My strategy for Iraq is that I'm going to tell the left what they want to hear, while telling the right I don't really mean it. Hopefully neither will question me too closely until after the election." Strike "Iraq" and insert "NAFTA", "gun control" or any other issue you like. Repeat as needed.
7.14.2008 5:54pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):

No, Senator, winning the war is essential.
You see, we're having a problem understanding what "winning" means. I mean, we know that it was Mission Accomplished years ago. The Bush Remnant says that admitting the whole thing was a blunder and withdrawing our chewed-up army is "losing" and anything, and I mean anything, else is some sort of "winning".

Once upon a time, winning was setting up Ahmed Chalabi (you know he's tight with McCain's Iraq advisor, right?) in a pro-US, pro-Israel [!!] Iraq. Plus winning is threatening Iran from those permanent bases, directed from the largest embassy complex in the whole wide world.

None of these things are going to happen. Even the much lesser "winning" condition of a functional Iraqi state doesn't seem to be making a lot of progress. Let's take Bush himself on the criteria for success:

To establish its authority, the Iraqi government plans to take responsibility for security in all of Iraq's provinces by November [of 2007]. To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country's economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis. To show that it is committed to delivering a better life, the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion of its own money on reconstruction and infrastructure projects that will create new jobs. To empower local leaders, Iraqis plan to hold provincial elections later this year [2007!]. And to allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation's political life, the government will reform de-Baathification laws, and establish a fair process for considering amendments to Iraq's constitution.
How has Iraq scored on this? There's been partial progress on repeal of the lustration law. The rest?

Only the most loyal Bush Cadre believe you can string a succession of failures into "winning". Yeah, Bush pulled it off in 2000 and 2004, but whatever you think of the terrorists, they're not going to go away just because the Supreme Court rules against them.
7.14.2008 6:02pm
wfjag:

Fundamentally, a suicide bomber is only willing to be a suicide bomber because there is no better alternative. This is because he has no real hope of earning more money in his lifetime than the oil barons will pay his family for sacrificing himself.


Actually, Caliban, that's one of the myths the US news media mis-reports as fact. See, e.g., Suicide Bombers: Warriors of the Middle Class by Randall Collins, Foreign Policy Magazine (JAN 2008)
www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=4131

Perhaps it's too frightening for reporters, who have received a liberal education in US or European universities, to admit that many of the suicide bombers have received the same type of education, sometimes at the same universities, and so thoroughly reject the principles on which that education is based, to become suicide bombers. As an example, the 9/11 hijacker pilots were educated in Western Europe and the US. Although their career prospects in their own countries weren't all that great, they had technical educations that would have supported successful careers in Europe or the US.
7.14.2008 6:44pm
psennett (mail):
Andrew, you simply cannot be so thick as to really believe the bile you dribble about "Mission Accomplished". Seriously?

As state here and a thousand other places, a war plan never survives the initial enemy contact. However, let's look at the President's radio address of March 22, 2003:

And our mission is clear, to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein's support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.

WMD - check. Chemicals, and that pesky 550 metric tons of Joe Wilson's yellowcake.

Support for terrorism - check. As in checks for bombers.

Free Iraqi people - check.

Benchmarks - check. 15 / 18.

You just want soooooo badly for things to be horrible and for us to lose this war, so deep is your Bush hatred and burning partisanship. What a pathetic human you are.
7.14.2008 9:27pm
Michael Edward McNeil (mail) (www):
Thinking that the U.S. Army and Marines in Iraq have been "chewed-up" is so brain-damaged. What has been chewed up is Al Qaeda.
7.14.2008 10:06pm
Psalm91 (mail):
The war has been its own very profit-eering-able bubble, paid for by the taxpayers and soldiers. Billions of no-bid no-performance profits. It will be over when the bubble bursts. Follow the money, as KBR followed the VP.
7.14.2008 11:23pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
PSennett, you are so right. Since Saddam had no WMD, so we had his program interdicted on the first day. Even before! (The 550 tons of yellowcake is nonsense: this was all on the IAEA books and under seal and had been known and accounted for all along.)

Checks for terrorists? For Palestinian terrorists. Very popular in Iraq. Bibi Netanyahu, less so. Our friends the Saudis write similar checks, and resuming the program is something all non-Kurd factions of the current Iraqi government would probably agree with, if we would let them. Why defenders of the Iraq War start up on its benefits to Israel is a mystery to me; it seems like self-parody.

Benchmarks? You're using the President's new scorecard. Your own link points out how over-optimistic it is. The benchmarks Bush laid out at the beginning of the surge? Almost complete failure. Compared to the moved goalposts now? Partial failure.

There is something pathetic here, but it isn't from the now-ascendent anti-war side. Every point you posted was part of a narrative as bogus, false, and irresponsible as the Germans' WWI stab-in-the-back legend, and for much the same purpose.
7.15.2008 10:03am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
psennett, Andrew has properly eviscerated your comment. But I'm going to add a couple of references.

Support for terrorism


In 2006, the Senate Intelligence Committee (when it was still controlled by Republicans) said this (pdf):

Conclusion 1: ... Saddam Hussein was distrustful of al-Qa'ida and viewed Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime, refusing all requests from al-Qa'ida to provide material or operational support. ... Saddam distrusted Islamic radicals in general, and al-Qa'ida in particular. ... bin Ladin attempted to exploit the former Iraqi regime by making requests for operational and material assistance, while Saddam Hussein refused all such requests. ... Saddam issued a general order that Iraq should not deal with al-Qa'ida.


Saddam's alleged "support for terrorism" has been greatly and chronically exaggerated. And before you pull Zarqawi out of your bag of stale talking points, you should look up what that same report said about him.

checks for bombers


Andrew mentioned Dubya's Saudi pals. They've provided billions to terrorists (link, link, pdf). And what they get from Dubya are hugs and kisses. Interesting how that works.

Aside from the Saudis, Maliki himself has history as a terrorist, including suicide attacks against Americans.

NRO and Andy McCarthy have covered this. Here's what they said about Maliki:

Maliki spent his exile-from-Saddam years in Syria as a political officer in the Dawa party which developed close ties with Hezbollah and Iran


NY Post, Benador Associates and Amir Taheri also have covered this. Here's what they said about Maliki:

[during his 20-year sojourn in Iran] he emerged as the leader of the party's most radical wing and the founder of its military branch, Jihadieh (The Holy Warriors). This was created by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard as one of several Iraqi Shiite militias Iran used in its long war against Saddam's Iraq


Some other details here.

We've replaced a secular anti-American thug with an Islamist anti-American thug. Saddam was an enemy of Iran. Maliki is a pal of Iran, and has been for years. Heckuva job, Dubya!
7.15.2008 11:01am
psennett (mail):
First, the claim of no WMD is patently asinine. Ask the Kurds about being gassed, do a little research into biological and chemical weapons. It doesn't take very much to kill an awful lot of people.

No matter how much you click your heels and repeat "there was no WMD", Dorothy, it still won't get you home. Even the Duelfer Report reminds us that the claimed destruction of chemical and biological stockpiles remains unverified. You willing to bet your family on the ISG closing their eyes and hoping?

Let's use a hypothetical. Let's say that President Bush, relying on the intelligence reports that everyone had such faith in prior to 9/11, took Saddam and the UN's word for it that all WMD stockpiles had been completely destroyed and all properly accounted for. And it turned out to be a lie, like Oil-for-Food. So some chemical or biological material was spirited into the CONUS and unleashed against the population. You would be the first people SHRIEKING that Bush is an idiot and how stupid of him to trust the intelligence and the UN and Saddam.

The point is, Bush cannot do anything right in your eyes. If he acts, he's a cowboy. If he doesn't, he's an illiterate coward.

Now, to Andrew's "new scorecard" meme. You're traveling from Chicago to St Louis. Your goal is to go right down I-55, all the way. Smooth sailing, 5.5 hours. But there's a big wreck with a hazmat spill on I-55 down at Pontiac, and I-55 will be for 12 hours. Do you: A) sit there and wait, cursing your luck and hoping the 12 hours passes quickly OR B) change your route, relying on a new direction? Of course you'd do B) and so it goes in any war. Remember, we're dealing in uncharted waters here. Liberating Arab countries and helping them become democracies isn't run of the mill diplomacy. When you change tactics, you change benchmarks.

The goals remain in place:

And our mission is clear, to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein's support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.

But as long as you're convinced that the Iraq is all about oil and revenge, these are wasted pixels.

Listen, I'm not happy that it appears that our troops will need to remain in Iraq for decades to come. But it's their job, just like the troops we have in dozens of other places.

Let's say we scooped everyone up and left tomorrow. What then? The point is that we're there, Saddam is dead, and it is our obligation to see this through to a stable government capable of defending itself.

As to Jukeboxgrad, quoting a retrospective analysis of the intelligence available is just intellectually flaccid. The decisions were not made in hindsight, and the most dangerous place to be pre-war was between any politican and a TV camera, so anxious were they all to get in front of the story and tell us how much of an imminent threat Saddam's capabilities were. And remember, those words came from, among others, David Kay from the ISG, not from President Bush:

"Based on the intelligence that existed, I think it was reasonable to reach the conclusion that Iraq posed an imminent threat. Now that you know reality on the ground as opposed to what you estimated before, you may reach a different conclusion-—although I must say I actually think what we learned during the inspection made Iraq a more dangerous place, potentially, than, in fact, we thought it was even before the war."

Now on to the outcome. If I read you correctly, none of the Iraqi leaders that have emerged are to your liking. Please tell me who you would prefer to be running the show and remember, Saddam and his sons are available. Your choice must be politically and religiously viable
7.15.2008 11:41am
psennett (mail):
Last graph should read "Saddam and his sons are not available". Obviously.
7.15.2008 11:59am
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
psennett, the Duelfer report is clear. No WMD. None. We searched up and down through the entire country, and we didn't find it. Now you're demand we show you the minutes of the meeting where the Jewish Conspiracy repealed the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Since there's no such conspiracy and the Protocols are forged nonsense, there isn't any such repeal. Since Saddam's WMD program came to a halt in 1998 at the latest (it isn't an accident that the Blix inspections couldn't find it and that all of our Chalabi-supplied WMD intel was refuted on the ground instantly), there wasn't anything for Duelfer to find.

As Duelfer's predecessor, Charles Kay, a devoted Republican, put it, "We were almost all wrong". What's amazing is the Flat Earth Bush Remnant, that wants to stay wrong.

Excerpt from the report's Cover Letter:

WMD Leftovers. There continue to be reports of WMD in Iraq. ISG has found that such reports are usually scams or misidentification of materials or activities. A very limited number of cases involved the discovery of old chemical munitions produced before 1990. These types of reports (particularly scams) will likely continue for some time and local authorities will have to judge which merit further investigation.
Are you in on the scams, psennett, or just a Bush Dupe?

You know, I thought Bush was being smart, forcing Saddam to submit to the Blix inspections. When Blix found nothing, even when we were supplying him with coordinates to check (all made up by Chalabi's Iranian-directed chorus), Bush should have taken a long second look. But for reasons having nothing to do with National Security and a lot to do with fracturing the Democratic Party, avenging his father, and initiating an illegal surveillance and torture state, he decided he wanted his cute little war anyway.

As far as your little road detour metaphor, the problem is we are driving towards Michigan and your navigator still insists we have succeeded in reaching the St. Louis Benchmark. Clear now?
7.15.2008 12:08pm
psennett (mail):
I'll stand by the David Kay quote. Your brilliant analysis, in retrospect and with all the laserlike focus of someone reading a library book, is only useful in the backclapping that you enjoy.

It must be a lot of work to ignore all of the UN mandates that Saddam flaunted, all of the flaunting of inspection schedules, kicking inspectors out for a few months to reshuffle the shells and peas.

But for reasons having nothing to do with National Security and a lot to do with fracturing the Democratic Party, avenging his father, and initiating an illegal surveillance and torture state, he decided he wanted his cute little war anyway.

That's an awesome sentence. You got all of the BDS talking points in, linguistically soundly and with no unnecessary capitalization. I congratulate you on the refinement of your art.

Knowing the plot and storyline after the movie has already been shown is not exactly intellectual heavy lifting.
7.15.2008 1:44pm
LM (mail):

Knowing the plot and storyline after the movie has already been shown is not exactly intellectual heavy lifting.

Maybe, but it beats having watched the movie and not knowing the plot.
7.15.2008 5:01pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
psennett:

quoting a retrospective analysis of the intelligence available is just intellectually flaccid. The decisions were not made in hindsight … Knowing the plot and storyline after the movie has already been shown is not exactly intellectual heavy lifting.


You're implying that Bush was an innocent victim of bad intel, and that he did the best he could with the intel he was given, and that he was truthful with us regarding that intel. Trouble is, that's a fairy tale. There's lots of proof. Here's one simple and typical example.

Rice told us the tubes were "only really suited for nuclear weapons programs." Cheney told us we knew this as a matter of "absolute certainty."

They lied (and the lying seems to be coordinated, since they spoke on the same day). A year earlier, our top nuclear scientists at DOE had determined that the tubes were probably for rockets, not centrifuges. Rice and Cheney swept that finding under the rug. And they took a position even more extreme than the position taken by Joe, the CIA analyst who was the main advocate of the centrifuge story. Even Joe admitted he didn't know for sure that the tubes were for centrifuges. He admitted the tubes may have been for rockets. Cheney and Rice went beyond just contradicting and hiding the DOE report. They also went beyond the claim that Joe made.

Here's further detail about what DOE said. SSCI (2004) says this:

On August 17, 2001, DOE published ... an extensive eight page analysis of whether the aluminum tubes were intended for a rocket or a centrifuge program. The assessment ... noted that the Iraqis had ... used large numbers of high strength aluminum tubes to manufacture 81-mm rockets dating back to at least 1989. The tubes were declared to be made of 7075-T6 aluminum with an 81 mm outer diameter, 74.4 mm inner diameter, and 900 mm length - the same specifications of the tubes Iraq was trying to acquire in 2001.

Regarding the tubes' utility in a gas centrifuge program, the DOE assessed that the tubes could have been used to manufacture centrifuge rotors, but were not well suited for that purpose. ...

DOE concluded that "... a gas centrifuge application is credible but unlikely and a rocket production application is the more likely end use for these tubes."


And this:

The DOE was so pessimistic about Iraq's ability to successfully use these tubes in a centrifuge, one analyst told Committee staff, that his initial assessment was that if Iraq was really trying to make centrifuges out of these tubes that "we should just give them the tubes."


Not only did Bush conceal this DOE finding, he sent someone to lie about it, and turn it into the exact opposite of the truth (SSCI again):

A September 13, 2002 New York Times article which discussed the IC debate about the aluminum tubes, noted that an administration official said, "... the best technical experts and nuclear scientists at laboratories like Oak Ridge supported the CIA assessments." ... DOE officials, including the Director of the Oak Ridge Field Intelligence Element, told Committee staff that the vast majority of scientists and nuclear experts at the DOE and the National Labs did not agree with the CIA's analysis.


(Emphasis added.) That darn liberal media. And guess who wrote that NYT article: Libby's favorite reporter, Judith Miller. And it's a safe bet that the "administration official" was Scooter. The article appeared just a few days after Cheney and Rice spoke. This tends to create the impression that there was a careful and coordinated attempt to deceive us about the tubes. If only they had planned the war itself as carefully as they planned the selling of the war.

(The article is behind the NYT firewall, but the full text is here, along with other related articles.)

Bush et al were dishonest with us regarding the tubes, and the same pattern of deception is apparent in all the other major areas, like yellowcake and bio-weapons labs.
7.16.2008 4:19pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
I assume by "yellowcake" you mean the uranium that Joe Wilson found that Iraq was trying to buy from Niger, but that he lied about later when he wrote an Op/Ed in the Times.
7.23.2008 2:04am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
My reply is here.
7.24.2008 1:55am