- George Zimmerman will not be charged in domestic dispute
- Russian officials press bilateral U.S. trade deal
- Selfies at Funerals blog creator retires after Obama flub: ‘Our work here is done’
- New Obama adviser Podesta is against Keystone but will steer clear of pipeline deliberations
- 40 Australian adults, children found in ‘one of the worst accounts of incest ever made public’
- Venezuela’s Maduro calls on student ‘price vigilantes’ to hit the streets, report businesses
- Atheists smug as Hindus join Satanists to demand display at Oklahoma Statehouse
- Bow before Valkyrie, NASA’s ‘superhero robot’ entry in DARPA challenge
- 10-year-old Pennsylvania boy suspended for pretend bow-and-arrow shooting
- All-out war breaks out in GOP over budget pact
LAMBRO: War wobbles
Question of the Day
About a week ago I reported in this column that a top defense adviser to Barack Obama was proposing that a large “residual” U.S. military force remain in Iraq under his mercurial troop withdrawal plan. The freshman Chicago Democrat pooh-poohed such reports at the time, saying that those who accused him of changing his position on pulling out all U.S. combat forces from Iraq “haven’t apparently been listening to me.”
But in an op-ed column in Monday’s New York Times, Mr. Obama said he will leave behind “a residual force in Iraq” that would carry out a number of missions, including going after al Qaeda insurgents, defending remaining U.S. servicemen left behind and training Iraqi security forces.
It is hard to follow the swiftly changing positions in his troop withdrawal plan, but at last count it has gone from removing all U.S. military forces to all “combat forces” to his most recent position: pulling out most combat forces with an apparently undetermined number of brigades left behind for the foreseeable future.
In my earlier column, I reported that Mr. Obama’s national security advisers were dropping hints that his redeployment plan would be more flexible and gradual than his earlier calls for a complete pullout, regardless of the combat situation on the ground. The biggest hint came from Colin Kahl, a defense analyst at Georgetown University who is the chief coordinator of Mr. Obama’s working group on Iraq policy. Their job has been to write policy papers that would form the basis of his withdrawal plan.
But in several policy papers and memos, Mr. Kahl didn’t always agree with Mr. Obama’s exuberant rhetoric for a total withdrawal. “Rather than unilaterally and unconditionally withdrawing from Iraq and hoping the international community will fill the void and push the Iraqis toward accommodation - a very unlikely scenario - the United States must embrace a policy of ‘conditional engagement’ ” in Iraq, Mr. Kahl wrote in the July/August Foreign Affairs.
“This approach would couple a phased redeployment of combat forces with a commitment to providing residual support for the Iraqi government if and only if it moves toward genuine reconciliation,” he said.
Mr. Kahl told me in a phone interview that his views did not represent the campaign’s position. But he expressed similar views in other confidential papers for the campaign, and advisers said they have come to reflect the senator’s “emerging thinking” on how to make a troop withdrawal plan work without leaving the Iraqis at the mercy of a renewed insurgency.
Contrary to Mr. Obama’s pledge to his antiwar base, Mr. Kahl’s position papers talked of leaving behind “a sustainable overwatch posture (of perhaps 60,000-80,000 forces) by the end of 2010 (although the specific timelines should be the byproduct of negotiations and conditions on the ground).”
In his New York Times column, Mr. Obama says nothing about the size of the “residual” military force he would leave in Iraq for the short-term. That base is already grumbling about signals he is softening the pace of his withdrawal, which he says occurs in consultation with the U.S. military commanders on the ground and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
But in a op-ed filled with contradictions, Mr. Obama grudgingly concedes the military surge he opposed, and predicted would fail, has worked. Still, he persists in his intention to pull out under a 16-month timetable in the midst of winning the war.
Mr. Obama knows he cannot afford to further inflame that base already outraged by his embrace of President Bush’s terrorist surveillance bill, gun rights, Bush-light faith-based programs and other moves toward the center. The Democratic left has been breathing down his neck for weeks over suspicions he will abandon them on Iraq once he is elected.
Long before his recent flip-flops, liberals sensed his withdrawal plan was not all it was cracked up to be. “What he is offering is a basic vision of withdrawal with muddy particulars… destined to meet an even muddier reality on the ground,” New Republic senior editor Michael Crowley wrote in May. “When it comes to Iraq, whatever the merits of Obama’s withdrawal plan may be, ‘Yes, we can’ might ultimately yield to ‘No, we can’t,’” Mr. Crowley said.
Indeed, Mr. Obama has spun from pulling all the troops out as quickly as possible to writing in the Times Monday that he hoped combat forces would be out by summer 2010, but with residual forces remaining behind just in case - a breathtaking change in positions.
But his “refined” policy comes with a number of other caveats, such as, “In carrying out this strategy, we would inevitably need to make tactical adjustments.” What does that mean? His advisers think it means keeping more troops in Iraq than he wants to admit right now.
About the Author
By Matt Kibbe
The short-term deal will assure long-term overspending
- Rand Paul: Budget deal 'shameful,' 'huge mistake'
- Teen thugs in D.C. run wild -- even while wearing GPS ankle bracelets
- Obama takes 'selfie' at Mandela's funeral service
- Budget deal exposes GOP divisions; conservatives slam tax hikes, vague cuts
- Chinese man fed up with his girlfriend's shopping jumps to his death
- Biden guarantees victory on immigration reform
- American bourbon now better than Scottish whisky: U.K.-born expert
- Obama's antics at Nelson Mandela tribute: Jovial conversation, handshake with Raul Castro
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- VEGAS RULES: Harry Reid pushed feds to change ruling for casino's big-money foreigners
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Al Maurer provides a common sense, conservatarian, Constitutional conservative perspective from the battleground state of Colorado
Interviews and show reviews from the Los Angeles punk scene past and present. Los Angeles has always been rich in punk rock talent since punk rock was born.
Buzz on Bees is a column promoting the love and life of God’s greatest pollinators on earth: The Honeybee
Brazen, leading-edge, “call it like it is” columns and reporting from Ohio native, radio host and writer, Sara Marie Brenner.
Extraordinary day at Redskins Park
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow