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Barack in Iraq

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Thus, in an article about Obama's widespread popularity in Iraq on the eve of his fact-finding mission there, the New York Times probably understated the case when it reported: "Mr. Obama has advocated a withdrawal that would remove most combat troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office. Despite some fears about such a departure, that stance is not unpopular here. Many Iraqis hate American forces because soldiers have killed their relatives and friends, and they say they want the troops out." [New York Times July 17, 2008]

That Obama's candidacy is shaping events can be seen in the recent statements of Mr. Maliki. As he told Der Spiegel on July 18th, "Artificially prolonging the tenure of U. S. troops in Iraq would cause problems. U. S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes."

(Given Maliki's demand for a withdrawal timetable (preferably Obama's) and Bush's capitulation to a "time horizon" (which McCain now applauds), perhaps McCain might want to apologize to Obama for calling Barack's 16-month timetable "surrender."

As for McCain's criticism of Obama's decision to publish his very thoughtful and presidential "Plan for Iraq" (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/14/opinion/14obama.html ) before even completing his upcoming fact-finding mission to that country - i.e., "In my experience, fact-finding missions usually work best the other way around: first you assess the facts on the ground, then you present a new strategy" -- somebody needs to remind the Arizona Senator that, even after eight visits to Iraq, he still made the gross mistake of asserting that Shiites from Iran were training al Qaeda Sunnis in Iraq. Eight trips to Iraq and he still didn't know the antagonisms dividing Shiites and Sunnis?)

Nevertheless, we should have no illusions about Senator Obama's strategy for success in Iraq. He sets the bar very low. For example, when he recently said: "We are not going to kill every al Qaeda sympathizer, eliminate every trace of Iranian influence, or stand up a flawless democracy before we leave," it brought to mind his April 2008 question to General Petraeus: "If we are able to have the status quo in Iraq right now without U. S. troops, would that be a sufficient definition of success?"

Senator Obama can ask such questions because, rather than making lofty pre-war predictions about the necessary and great things an invasion of Iraq would accomplish - as Bush and McCain did - Obama opposed the impending invasion, calling it a "dumb" and "rash" war.

(Even so, Obama still defines success as political stability resulting from political reconciliation that avoids - rather than results from -- civil war. If Simon and Odom are correct, he still might be setting the bar too high.)

Months before Bush's invasion, Barack Obama asserted: "I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U. S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment of Al Qaeda. I'm not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars."

Events have proved him correct. As he noted on July 15, 2008, "This war diminishes our security, our standing in the world, our military, our economy, and the resources that we need to confront the challenges of the 21st century."

Because Bush and McCain possessed no such wisdom but, instead, foolishly raised expectations to justify their invasion and occupation, they now have their reputations at stake. Which is why they are unable to define success as Obama has defined it - and why they have neither a strategy for success nor strategy for leaving Iraq. It's why they have to tout a mere tactic - the surge - and hope for a miracle.

Thus, it's hardly surprising why America and the world increasingly place their "hope" in a President Barack Obama.

 

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Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San (more...)
 
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