Recent reports and rumors have indicated that Senator Obama plans to aggressively move to the middle on Iraq in the coming months. This is a good political move for Obama, if only because he’s finally starting to recognize reality. However, it’s no surprise that he will continue to try and have it both ways: moderating his withdrawal language without giving any credit to surge/Petraeus advocates.
Take his speech yesterday in Unity, NH. Standing alongside Hillary, Obama said,
“We can follow a policy that doesn’t change whether violence is up or violence is down, whether the Iraqi government takes responsibility or not; or we can decide that it’s time to begin a responsible, gradual withdrawal from Iraq.”
This was the meat of his Iraq comments, lasting less than one minute.
Just months ago, Obama clamored for an “immediate” withdrawal, regardless of the situation on the ground; today, his withdrawal would be “gradual.” Maybe he was channeling Hillary Clinton, or maybe he finally realizes that very few people—except the MoveOn crowd—want an immediate withdrawal. His website, I should note, still touts an “immediate” withdrawal.
Despite this move, Obama insists that America’s policy in Iraq “doesn’t change whether violence is up or violence is down.” This is verifiably false. Boy, his promised trip to Iraq can’t happen soon enough. I’d love to see him give the same speech to commanders (and troops) on the ground. Tell the troops that they didn’t change policy/strategy/tactics. What was the new counter-insurgency strategy, Mr. Senator? The strategy changed just a bit since you were here 2.5 years ago.
Obama goes on to imply that the Iraqi government hasn’t taken responsibility. Again, see overdue Iraq trip. Oh, to be a scorpion on the wall when Obama meets Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki for the first time. Where will Maliki start: Basra? Sadr City? Mosul? Key legislation? Sunni’s rejoining the government? The menu grows.
True to form, Obama is trying to have it both ways—attempting to use moderate rhetoric to mask an irresponsible Iraq policy, all the while unwilling to recognize the incredible progress on the ground. His website says the surge has only reduced violence to mid-2006 levels. Again, verifiably false. Today, we are at the lowest violence levels in Iraq in four years.
Because of the facts on the ground (even if he won’t admit it), Obama’s withdrawal rhetoric will continue to soften. The question he should ask himself is—who should get credit for the change in conditions?
Something to keep an eye on…