The Corner

Obama’s Iraq Evolution

After his comment about how he may “refine” his Iraq position, Obama communications director Robert Gibbs can’t seem to decide whether or not Obama’s campaign promise to withdraw from Iraq in 16 months is real. The RNC has taken notice and sending this around:

CNN, 7/7/08, 7:34 am ET

John Roberts: To what degree will commanders on the ground dictate the pace of withdrawal? How much say will they have in this whole thing?

Robert Gibbs: Well, look, I don’t want to prejudge a lot of this stuff. We’re going to get to that point on the first day of this administration.

MSNBC, 7/7/08 7:04 am ET:

Gibbs: Obviously you have to give commanders on the ground flexibility. We’d be crazy not to.

Andrea Mitchell: Does that mean you would not be able to withdraw in 16 months.

Gibbs: No, no. We believe we will. We believe we will. But obviously we’ll listen to commanders on the ground as conditions may or may not change. 

Gibbs also tried to rewrite Obama’s opposition to the surge:

MSNBC, 7/7/08 7:04 am ET

Robert Gibbs: “We added 30,000 brave American troops, and violence is down, as everyone suspected it would be.”

MSNBC’s “Response To The President’s Speech On Iraq,” 1/10/07

Barack Obama: “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.” 

In the article I have on NRO this morning, I discuss Obama’s decision to moderate his position on Iraq withdrawal in a little more detail, but I also think his Iraq shift must be viewed in context along with his other foreign policy shifts. My conclusion? Obama would be loathe to admit it, but between his current stances on three things — staying the course in Iraq, endorsing the doctrine of preventative war and supporting the strategic expansion of executive power to fight the war on terror — he’s awfully close to embracing the core tenets of Bush’s foreign policy

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