Obama: My Plan for Iraq
by Jerome Armstrong, Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 07:06:25 AM EDT
Obama has been consistent in is realizing that his brand of authenticity rests with his opposition to the continued occupation of Iraq by American forces. His op-ed in the NYT's today continues it for him.
I was sorta reading through it, waiting to see some sort of shift to a more centrist point, and really didn't see it in there over Iraq. Good. I expected that he'd stay with the Mark Warner line of "getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in" that reassures, and not explain what Richardson criticized him on over what "residual troops" means. In that, I share the healthy skepticism of Steve Clemons. But toward the end, I thought this was bold:
As president, I would pursue a new strategy, and begin by providing at least two additional combat brigades to support our effort in Afghanistan. We need more troops, more helicopters, better intelligence-gathering and more nonmilitary assistance to accomplish the mission there. I would not hold our military, our resources and our foreign policy hostage to a misguided desire to maintain permanent bases in Iraq.
On Iraq, that last line is right on the mark, and its the one thing I wanted to hear from him. Of course, there already are bases in Iraq. Obama's touchstone position on Iraq is his "16 months" timetable. That works, and if Democrats can draw McCain into debating the presence of the military as "permanent" or not, we'll be on good footing.
Obama is seriously misguided about what we need in Afghanistan, its more roads, not troops, that will serve the purpose of opening up Afghanistan. The last thing we need is more US military in Afghanistan. Why in the world would Obama want to diminish the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan by making it more US-based?
Juan Cole's blog post on the topic is right on the money, in regards to mostly agreeing with Obama, but finding that his 'residual forces' solution Iraq is probably a non-starter, and that Obama's plan for 10,000 more troops in Afghanistan is historically uninformed.
I suppose, if I were to garner into the territory that Obama deems as cynical, I would see Obama's moves of wanting to maintain a presence in Iraq, and play a bit of a 'tough-guy-in-someplace-other-than-Iraq' role by choosing to ramp up 'search and destroy missions' in Afghanistan as a way to bolster his defense against "false charges about flip-flops and surrender" from the Republicans. Cole has those same 'dangerous and cynical' thoughts about Obama:
I don't know whether Senator Obama really wants to try to militarily occupy Afghanistan even more than is now being attempted. I wish he would talk to some old Russian officers who were there in the 1980s first. Of course, it may be that this announced strategy is political and for the purposes of having something to say when McCain accuses him of surrendering in Iraq.
Well, Cole might be wrong about Obama being captive to his own words, as FISA well enough showed. Afghanistan?
Afghan tribes are fractious. They feud. Their territory is vast and rugged, and they know it like the back of their hands. Afghans are Jeffersonians in the sense that they want a light touch from the central government, and heavy handedness drives them into rebellion. Stand up Karzai's army and air force and give him some billions to bribe the tribal chiefs, and let him apply carrot and stick himself. We need to get out of there. "Al-Qaeda" was always Bin Laden's hype. He wanted to get us on the ground there so that the Mujahideen could bleed us the way they did the Soviets. It is a trap.
Didn't Obama just watch Dan Rather in the 1980's reporting from Afghanistan (great movie)? Just finish building the road, make sure it remains open, and stay the hell out of ramping up there.
But one thing this op-ed by Obama does show, is that Obama sure does know how to frame a position that's going to get him attacked from the right, by making sure he also gets something in there that the left will also attack him for-- what's that called? Which group invented that term?
I have to come back to asking who in the Democratic world is telling Obama to diminish NATO in Afghanistan by adding "at least two additional combat brigades" and "more helicopters" -- nearly making it to seem another US occupation? Is that Sam Nunn? I'll have to opt for the cynical translation of this, instead of believing that Obama actually thinks he'll lead the Democratic Party into a deeper US military entrenchment of Afghanistan.
If the Afghanistan gambit is sincere, I don't think it is good geostrategy. Afghanistan is far more unwinnable even than Iraq. If playing it up is politics, then it is dangerous politics. Presidents can become captive of their own record and end up having to commit to things because they made strong representations about them to the public.