Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Senator Obama's Idea For Iraq

A tip of the hat to Mr. Hewitt for this piece

Barack Obama has penned a relatively naive op-ed in today's New York Times regarding his "plan" for Iraq. After giving a one over, we can only assume this man literally knows of nothing that has occurred in that nation:

The call by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki for a timetable for the removal of American troops from Iraq presents an enormous opportunity. We should seize this moment to begin the phased redeployment of combat troops that I have long advocated, and that is needed for long-term success in Iraq and the security interests of the United States.

First things first, senator, the man's name is Nouri Kamel Mohammed Hassan al-Maliki. Please show some respect for an ally. Secondly, the call you celebrate was a guarantee from the beginning. In fact the 1920's brigades that originally fought against us in Iraq, then joined us as the Anbar Awakening unfolded said just as much. The Iraqis do not want us there one moment longer than we are needed. But right now, we still have a job to do. Your idea for a "phased redeployment" will give AQI and other forces (other foreign terrorists and Iranian elements) hope that once we are gone they can go back to attacking the rightful government of Iraq. It is naive to think your idea is the same as Prime Minister Maliki's. Additionally, the prime minister's idea will not be splashed across the front page of every major newspaper. In other words, he will not announce the date of withdrawal.

The differences on Iraq in this campaign are deep. Unlike Senator John McCain, I opposed the war in Iraq before it began, and would end it as president. I believed it was a grave mistake to allow ourselves to be distracted from the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban by invading a country that posed no imminent threat and had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. Since then, more than 4,000 Americans have died and we have spent nearly $1 trillion. Our military is overstretched. Nearly every threat we face — from Afghanistan to Al Qaeda to Iran — has grown.

Senator, you were not a part of Congress at the time the Authorization for the Use of Military Force was cast in the Senate, and your token opposition in the Illinois state Senate is irrelevant. John McCain saw that Iraq was, indeed, a front in this war, just given Saddam Hussein's ties to terrorist groups in the region, and that included al-Qaeda. Your naivete in taking up the talking points of the Left -- that Iraq was not an imminent threat -- is foolhardy, at best. The same Congress who voted for the invasion of Iraq was the same Congress which in 1998 voted for regime change, on a much thinner case than what was laid out by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, and President George W. Bush. Furthermore, we have no neglected Afghanistan. What is occurring in Afghanistan is not the work of coalition soldiers. It is the outcome of appeasement; the same appeasement instigated by President Perez Musharraf in Pakistan in allowing the Taliban a safe haven in the Waziristan region of that nation. And that mistake is being addressed right now by Pakistani forces. I would also like to point out that the 4000 lives you claim to stand for will have died in vain if you get your way on retreat.

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.

But the same factors that led me to oppose the surge still hold true. The strain on our military has grown, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated and we’ve spent nearly $200 billion more in Iraq than we had budgeted. Iraq’s leaders have failed to invest tens of billions of dollars in oil revenues in rebuilding their own country, and they have not reached the political accommodation that was the stated purpose of the surge.

The situation in Afghanistan has not deteriorated. If anything, we are holding a line in Afghanistan, awaiting the influx of US troops, and we still are waiting on our allies to fulfill their NATO obligations. Iraq's leaders have not failed. They have, in fact, fulfilled fifteen of the eighteen benchmarks agreed to, not that the media took any sort of notice. As for their oil revenues, you do understand those oil rigs have been under attack by the insurgents and AQI, yes? The oil is pumping now, on a regular basis, and the Iraqis have opened the bidding on oil and natural gas fields to a number of companies (35, according to this report) including American companies. Those fields have been designated open due to the ease with which to drill the oil, and get it out of the ground as quickly as possible.

The good news is that Iraq’s leaders want to take responsibility for their country by negotiating a timetable for the removal of American troops. Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. James Dubik, the American officer in charge of training Iraq’s security forces, estimates that the Iraqi Army and police will be ready to assume responsibility for security in 2009.

Only by redeploying our troops can we press the Iraqis to reach comprehensive political accommodation and achieve a successful transition to Iraqis’ taking responsibility for the security and stability of their country. Instead of seizing the moment and encouraging Iraqis to step up, the Bush administration and Senator McCain are refusing to embrace this transition — despite their previous commitments to respect the will of Iraq’s sovereign government. They call any timetable for the removal of American troops “surrender,” even though we would be turning Iraq over to a sovereign Iraqi government.

Senator, what planet are you from? We have always said we will leave when our mission is done. Even the Iraqi government says they are not ready for us to leave. The timetable you speak of is one being put in place to extend this mission beyond the December 31st deadline at the end of this year. The president has already called for a draw down of surge brigades because things are going so well over there, and the Iraqis have a 500,000-plus standing army. And it has performed beyond expectations under our instruction. They did take on Basra will little support from US forces, and General Petraeus admits that they are taking a more pro-active role in rooting out AQI and other foreign elements. To continue down this path of "doom and gloom," coloring what is really going on over there, does nothing for you other than to show your inexperience and naivete. You know nothing of which you speak, and choose to stick by your faulty and obtuse ideas about what is going on over there despite your claims that you would listen to the commanders on the ground for a solid assessment. You are hedging on whether or not to go to Iraq, and even then you say you probably will not speak with General Petraeus. If you will not speak with him, then how can you make any sort of assessment at all?

But this is not a strategy for success — it is a strategy for staying that runs contrary to the will of the Iraqi people, the American people and the security interests of the United States. That is why, on my first day in office, I would give the military a new mission: ending this war.

If you end this war haphazardly, you will invite the enemies of a free Iraq back in, and turn that nation into a sanctuary for our enemies. You will have placed the people back under the boot heel of a totalitarian regime, only this time it will be under an Islamic extremists regime, not a secular dictatorship as it was under Saddam Hussein. Iran's regular and irregular forces will sweep in, and dominate the actions of the Iraqi state; basically turning it into a puppet of the regime run out of Tehran. Sunni and Shia can work together (they are doing so in Iraq right now), and they have in the past (as with AQI's alliance with Quds forces and Hezbollah forces that have been caught in Iraq). You leave precipitously and you will destroy all for which we have fought for, and all the sacrifices made not only by our troops, but the Iraqis as well.

As I’ve said many times, we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 — two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began. After this redeployment, a residual force in Iraq would perform limited missions: going after any remnants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, protecting American service members and, so long as the Iraqis make political progress, training Iraqi security forces. That would not be a precipitous withdrawal.

Yes, Senator, that is a precipitous withdrawal. Whether you do it over the course of two years or not, without securing the necessary steps for a safe withdrawal it is cutting and running. Your desire to get us out of Iraq is not rooted in a reality a real commander-in-chief would recognize. It is rooted in the special interests of the antiwar bloc of your party that has become so out-of-touch with the real world -- blinded by anger and hatred -- that you cannot see the forest through the trees. The soldiers do not want to leave until the job is done, and they are proud of the work they have accomplished. America does not want us to leave until we have achieved victory. Instead of appealing to the hard Left of your base, you might want to try listening to the commanders in Iraq, and the American people.

In carrying out this strategy, we would inevitably need to make tactical adjustments. As I have often said, I would consult with commanders on the ground and the Iraqi government to ensure that our troops were redeployed safely, and our interests protected. We would move them from secure areas first and volatile areas later. We would pursue a diplomatic offensive with every nation in the region on behalf of Iraq’s stability, and commit $2 billion to a new international effort to support Iraq’s refugees.

You say you would consult with the commanders on the ground, and yet you are still committed to a withdrawal. That seems rather waffle-ish, does it not? And without paying any attention to the commanders, how will you know which areas are secured, and which ones are not? Do you even have a clue about the areas that are secured now, or were you among those who decided to skip General Petraeus's two briefings to the Congress? And the diplomatic offensive, tell me senator, does that go along with your without preconditions talk with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? You do realize, hopefully, that nations like Iran, and others in the region, have no interest in a free and democratic Iraq, yes? Iran does not want to see that, and in fact, they are a bit skittish right now between a free Afghanistan, and a free Iraq. Their people -- the outspoken youth and dissidents -- are demanding freedom almost daily, and it is the thuggish theocrats in Iran that silence them via brute force. Your diplomatic negotiations would only give them relevance in a world that has deemed them a potential threat. You would lend credence to a regime that is a blatant abuser of human rights, and the region's foremost sponsor of terrorism.

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. As Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently pointed out, we won’t have sufficient resources to finish the job in Afghanistan until we reduce our commitment to Iraq.

Citing Admiral Mullen now does not change the fact that Iraq was, indeed, the central front on this war. Al-Qaeda had a minimal presence in Iraq until we invaded. Senator, they made Iraq the central front. And as for Admiral Mullen's observation, two things will make Afghanistan a moot point. First, the Pakistani military's efforts to root out the Taliban/al-Qaeda elements in Waziristan. Second, the surge of forces heading to Afghanistan; of which some are NATO members, and some are our own forces. In addition, we have a deal worked out with Pakistan where we can target Taliban and al-Qaeda leadership in Waziristan IF we have actionable intelligence. We guess you missed that memo a couple weeks back.

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.

To state that we need more in Afghanistan when more has been arriving there since January of this year is redundant. We have increased the troops in Afghanistan, and our intelligence is much better than what it was. We have taken out key Taliban/al-Qaeda leaders when they pop up, and thus far nearly every incursion launched from Pakistan into Afghanistan has been turned back, with the enemy smarting much more than our forces are. Like Iraq, you lack the basic knowledge of what is going on in country. Like Iraq, you are basically claiming Afghanistan is unwinnable right now, as things stand, when in fact we are winning in Afghanistan, as well. A surge of troops, like that which occurred in Iraq, would help. But as things stand right now, incrementally increasing the troops there is a prudent approach. Afghanistan is not in the conditions that Iraq was, which prompted the counterinsurgency strategy in the first place. Our problem there lies within Pakistan -- a nation you decided long ago to invade.

In this campaign, there are honest differences over Iraq, and we should discuss them with the thoroughness they deserve. 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. But for far too long, those responsible for the greatest strategic blunder in the recent history of American foreign policy have ignored useful debate in favor of making false charges about flip-flops and surrender.

It’s not going to work this time. It’s time to end this war.

Senator, you stated that you would debate Senator McCain "anywhere, any time," and you have run from every challenge he has put forth to hold those debates. Be it for simple reasons (your inability to speak off the cuff, without a teleprompter) or more complex ones (that Senator McCain knows significantly more than you do about the situation in both Iraq and Afghanistan) is irrelevant. You refuse to debate him. And by finishing the job in both countries, we will address the "broader security challenges" in the region. Going into Iraq was not a blunder. How it was initially handled was a blunder. But we changed tactics and we changed strategy, and in doing so, we have shown significant success and progress in Iraq. That same progress is taking shape in Afghanistan. And as for those charges of flip-flopping, who is it that has changed their mind on nearly every issue of this campaign since the primaries started? As for surrender, which party has held over sixty separate votes on withdrawing the funding for the troops in harm's way in an effort to bring them home? Representative Kanjorski even admitted that your party purposefully "stretched the facts" on bringing the war to an end to win back the Congress, and in his words, the antiwar crowd "ate it up." You care little for the missions at hand, and are saying this to appeal to the fever-swamp of your party's base.

Senator Obama, if you think this op-ed is going to change many minds in this nation, you are seriously naive. Here I am, a young voter in this election, and it seems that I know considerably more about this war and our enemy tan you do. What you offer here is a pipe-dream; empty rhetoric to win back some of the kook fringe you lost when you waffled on the FISA vote last week. You have been losing them since you started your march to the center. Alas, this is the sad plight of your party when they turn their backs on the people who claim that this is their party. It was MovOn.org's boast that "Now it's our Party: we bought it, we own it, and we're going to take it back.” When you appeal to the basest aspects of your party -- the fringe elements -- you cannot throw them off in an effort to show yourself as a centrist.

Welcome to the real world of politics, senator. Maybe you should have taken some notes along the way as you ascended the political ladder. At the very least, maybe you should have put up a full term in the Senate, rather than 143 days, before you decided to make a run for the most important office in America.


UPDATE: Welcome Hugh Hewitt readers. Feel free to poke around, and leave a comment if you would like to.


Blogger Barlowmaker said...

Excellent analysis.

July 14, 2008 at 2:25 PM  
Anonymous Jeff said...

That analysis was spot on!! I am an instant regular on your blog. Keep up the good work. And yes, I am a Hugh Hewitt reader.

July 14, 2008 at 3:56 PM  
Blogger TLindaman said...

Marcie, you've done a magnificent job taking on the Obamessiah! Keep up the fantastic work, and enjoy the fame while it lasts.

July 15, 2008 at 4:27 AM  

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