Diary

Refining victory

For the past few months I have made it a part of my daily routine to visit the Iraq page on Obama’s website (Iraq /Change We can believe In!). With mounting incredulity I found, day after day, the same increasingly bizarre and outdated entry on Obama’s policy for troop withdrawal. The policy, in its entirety, reads like this:

“Obama will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. He will remove one to two combat brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months. Obama will make it clear that we will not build any permanent bases in Iraq. He will keep some troops in Iraq to protect our embassy and diplomats; if al Qaeda attempts to build a base within Iraq, he will keep troops in Iraq or elsewhere in the region to carry out targeted strikes on al Qaeda.”

This, in all its vintage late-2006 era of certainty of defeat, is the total policy — the very policy that gained Obama the Democrat nomination. Not surprisingly, over the past few months as success in Iraq became clear to even Democrats and journalists, it became increasingly difficult for obama’s surrogates, flacks, sycophants and media hacks to square this policy with events in the real world.

Missing from this statement was any mention of safety of our troops, stability in Iraq, consultation with military commanders, consultation with the Iraqi government, consultation with our allies, conditions on the ground, the size, shape and nature of the force Obama intends to leave behind…or perhaps in Kuwait or Okinawa? The unreality and lack of detail caused some media to begin nudging Obama — among them George Packer in the New Yorker and the Wash Post editorial page — that Obama was going to have to come up with something better. This led to his lame attempts to refine his policy on July 3rd, followed by the usual statements that Obama has not changed his position.

There it stood till today, July 14.

Making my usual trip to the Obama site, I discovered that the above policy, and indeed the whole Iraq page, has been scrubbed. (Too bad, because it had a lot of imbecilic antiwar stuff and pontificating about the civil war in Iraq, how Obama had the original idea for the Iraq Surrender Group, etc).

Here is the new statement on troop withdrawal:

“A Responsible, Phased Withdrawal

Barack Obama believes we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. Immediately upon taking office, Obama will give* his Secretary of Defense* and military commanders a new mission in Iraq: ending the war. The removal of our troops will be responsible and phased, directed by military commanders on the ground* and done in consultation with the Iraqi government. Military experts believe we can safely redeploy combat brigades from Iraq at a pace of 1 to 2 brigades a month that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 – more than 7 years after the war began.

Under the Obama plan, a residual force* will remain in Iraq and in the region to conduct targeted counter-terrorism missions against al Qaeda in Iraq and to protect American diplomatic and civilian personnel. He will not build permanent bases in Iraq**, but will continue efforts to train and support the Iraqi security forces as long as Iraqi leaders move toward political reconciliation and away from sectarianism.”

Allow me to explicate the meaning here.

*Note that in the original formulation, Obama simply starts pulling troops out immediately — without any plans or preparations — apparently simply through the force of his magical powers. This idiocy was nicely addressed by the Martha Radditz ABC report stating that, in fact, this was logistically impossible.

**Sometime between the press conference on July 3, when Obama stated that on his first day as President he “would call in the Joint chiefs of Staff and give them a new mission — ending the war in Iraq” somebody, perhaps his military brains trust, has informed Obama that the Joint Chiefs of Staff no longer are in the operational chain of command. Pursuant to the Goldwater-Nichols Defense Reorganization Act of 1986, of which Obama appears to be entirely ignorant, manpower and staffing are the purview of the JCS, while war plans, operations, and their execution are the responsibility of the combatant commands, in this case, CENTCOM and its new commander, Gen David Petraeus, the architect of our stunning success in Iraq. Here Obama gives the correct line of command, from POTUS to SECDEF Gates (input on strategy from Adm Mullen) to Petraeus.

*New buzzwords

**Gen petraeus and his successor, MNF Commander Gen Odierno

*Hey, Maliki wants a timetable…er, no he doesn’t. See BBC today.

**The size and makeup of this force would, again, be determined by the CENTCOM commander.

*Consistent, but again, what if the achievement of Obama’s goals require a permanent base? What if the Iraqis ask for it?

**This is simply bizarre. So we’re going to withhold training the Iraqi troops if political etc goals aren’t met? But but –won’t that mean that there will be fewer ready Iraqi troops and therefore we will need to put in more american troops to replace them, oh great and all-seeing, all-knowing Obama?

The page is well worth visiting, and while slightly more detailed and current than the previous page (which read like the blog of a not-very-bright high school senior) contains much that is interesting and worth analyzing.

more later.