Barack’s Dear John to


I received an email from Barack today. Well, from his campaign. It sent along an op-ed piece, under Barack’s byline, offering a clarification on his proposed policy on Iraq. As with all of his clarifications, it is designed to leave the record confused, leaving him room to adopt a new position, as he is trying to do now, without being blamed for having shifted.

I am sharing with you his letter, and my response.

NYT: My Plan for Iraq

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.

What you have long advocated is withdrawing our troops on a fixed schedule that has no regard for events in Iraq. This is obviously stupid and untenable, so you are trying to change this into a fight over timetables. But the fight is actually about whether you have a plan to leave Iraq successfully, or just to leave.

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.

You gave a speech against it, and have spent the years since making no effort to end it. Great leadership. McCain wants to end the war too – by winning it. Which actually could be much faster than your approach.

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.

It may have been a grave mistake to have invaded Iraq. It also could have been a grave mistake not to. Time will tell.

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 same factors hold true, but does you position against the surge still hold true? Ah, you. You are good, Barack. Plenty of wiggle room there.

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.

True enough. They haven’t yet reached political accomodation. But they will. And the surge will have made it possible. This is one of the great bogus arguments of the left. “It’s very nice that the violence has dropped dramatically, but we’re unhappy with the pace of political changes.” That’s how it goes with slippery, spineless politicians – they don’t generally deliver on what needs to be done, as you know.

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.

The only reason that Maliki is talking about a timetable is to head of the wacko left in his country in advance of parliamentary elections next year. He’s playing the same game you’re playing, Barack.

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.

The argument that Iraqis might be jostled into taking more responsibility for their own affairs if we forced their hands a bit is a realistic one. This is different than advocating an abandonment of the effort.

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.

Ah, finally we’re getting somewhere. And how exactly, Barack, would you end the war? This is what the debate is about – is it by withdrawing, systematically our troops as you’ve been saying for the past year and a half, or are you going to hedge and say that you always had your fingers crossed on this commitment, even though it is stated clearly on your website still?

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.

If you follow your stated policy, it would be a reckless, dangerous and unsustainable withdrawal that makes no commitment to making the best of the situation for Iraq and for the entire region. So, which is it, your current policy, or a new one?

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.

Ok. There’s the hedge. There’s the flip-flop – “we would inevitably need to make tactical adjustments.” There’s the slap in the face to those in the liberal left who dumped Hillary because you were the absolute, no exception, we’re pulling out no matter what candidate, and she was the one who played politics with the war by voting to authorize – which you claim you might or might not have done were you in her shoes. There has been no such caveate in your official stance on the war. You are a slippery character, Barack.

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.

Sure – and by following your official policy, the one you used to get the nomination, there can be no expectation of ending the war. The blind withdrawal of forces would surely lead to new problems that would force us back in, or, as you hope to create the room for in your new policy, to stay longer.

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.

Barack’s new position, if we are to believe this letter and other recent updates on his policy, is that we will withdraw troops as quickly as we can, but will stop any withdrawals if events on the ground make it too dangerous to leave. So, Barack is no longer the anti-war candidate – he’s the keep it going as long as necessary candidate. So then, how do you differentiate yourself from Barack on the war?

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.

There it is – the position that Barack will use in the fall to pretend to be different from McCain. He will say he doesn’t want our troops to remain on bases after the war to maintain the peace. Wow. I wonder how the folks at and the Huffington Post feel about the guy who tricked them into abandoning Hillary.

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.

And you, Barack Obama, the anti-war candidate, even with this policy update, have no plan to end the war. Just to fudge it for political gain, as you’ve now essentially confessed to having done all along. Amazing.

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