Towards A Good Samaritan World

Friday, December 29, 2006

BARACK OBAMA, ANTI-WAR ACTIVIST

I have generally been skeptical of Barack Obama because it seems that he doesn't take substantive positions on anything. But with this column, I guess Obama becomes (unless he was already) the most high-profile advocate of "phased redeployment" from Iraq:

Now we are faced with a quagmire to which there are no good answers. But the one that makes very little sense is to put tens of thousands more young Americans in harm's way without changing a strategy that has failed by almost every imaginable account.

In escalating this war with a so-called "surge" of troops, the President would be overriding the expressed concerns of Generals on the ground, Secretary Powell, the bipartisan Iraq Study Group and the American people. Colin Powell has said that placing more troops in the crossfire of a civil war simply will not work. General John Abizaid, our top commander in the Middle East, said just last month that, "I believe that more American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future." Even the Joint Chiefs of Staff have expressed concern, saying that a surge in troop levels "could lead to more attacks by al-Qaeda" and "provide more targets for Sunni insurgents." Once again, the President is defying good counsel and common sense...

There is no military solution to this war. Our troops can help suppress the violence, but they cannot solve its root causes. And all the troops in the world won't be able to force Shia, Sunni, and Kurd to sit down at a table, resolve their differences, and forge a lasting peace. In fact, adding more troops will only push this political settlement further and further into the future, as it tells the Iraqis that no matter how much of a mess they make, the American military will always be there to clean it up.

That is why I believe we must begin a phased redeployment of American troops to signal to the government and people of Iraq, and others who have a stake in stabilizing the country - that ours is not an open-ended commitment. They must step up. The status quo cannot hold.


If "there is no military solution," does it follow that "we must begin a phased redeployment?" What does "there is no military solution" mean, anyway? Isn't it better to frame the issue in terms of whether redeploying would be "better" or "worse"-- and for whom? What does Obama think will happen, if we pull out? Does he think an American pullout will make Iraq more peaceful, because the US presence provokes anger and violence? Or will it make the civil war worse, but it won't be our problem anymore? Perhaps it will allow the Shiites to expel the Sunnis, and this serves our interests, because the Sunnis are our enemies and the Shiites are semi-allies, and/or because a Sunni-Shiite duel will distract both sides from fighting us?

And why should the redeployment be "phased?" To me, it sounds like Obama's arguments point towards an immediate redeployment.

Give Obama credit for making his Iraq position clearer than John Kerry ever did. (A very low bar.) But I would have to hear more about the motivations and arguments behind his position, and about his broader geostrategic outlook, before this guy deserves my trust. Or other Americans'.

2 Comments:

  • Obama is very skeptical of the escalation of troops Pres. Bush is planning. And really, how long is the President going to take to come up with a plan? Regardless, its safe to say there are no good options left at this point. But, any escalation makes it appear we are headed for the exit. Last throws if you will.

    By Blogger Parklife, at 2:58 PM  

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