I Don't Care About Your Pony Plan for Iraq

by: Matt Stoller

Wed Sep 12, 2007 at 13:00

I really think it's weird for Obama and various Presidential candidates to give speeches on their 'plans' for withdrawing troops from Iraq during Bush's term as President.  They aren't the President yet, and they won't be President until 2009.  So the only 'plans' that matter are (a) what that person will do in the Senate right now and (b) what that person will do in 2009 as President after inheriting the situation we face right now, only 18 months worse.

What I want to know, on the cusp of Obama's big speech, is whether he will vote to cut off funding for combat operations that are not withdrawals from the country.  If he avoids that question, he's avoiding one of two key issues in this primary.  The other key question on Iraq is whether he will leave residual forces in the country as President.  Here's Barack Obama on Iraq today.

I opposed this war from the beginning. I opposed the war in 2002. I opposed it in 2003. I opposed it in 2004. I opposed it in 2005. I opposed it in 2006. I introduced a plan in January to remove all of our combat brigades by next March. And I am here to say that we have to begin to end this war now.  Let me be clear: there is no military solution in Iraq, and there never was.

Here's Obama, in November, 2005.

I believe that U.S. forces are still a part of the solution in Iraq. The strategic goals should be to allow for a limited drawdown of U.S. troops, coupled with a shift to a more effective counter-insurgency strategy that puts the Iraqi security forces in the lead and intensifies our efforts to train Iraqi forces.

At the same time, sufficient numbers of U.S. troops should be left in place to prevent Iraq from exploding into civil war, ethnic cleansing, and a haven for terrorism.

Obama in his plan today moves the withdrawal date back eight months from his stance in May, which is a right-ward move.  That doesn't matter so much as his stance on stopping a bill that funds anything but withdrawals.  I have two questions for every Presidential candidate in the Senate.  Will they use the power of the purse to mandate a withdrawal?  And will they leave residual forces in Iraq as President? 

Answering these questions would be a big speech on Iraq.  Not answering them is simply a lot of high level PR, which I suppose is appropriate during Petraeus's big week.

Matt Stoller :: I Don't Care About Your Pony Plan for Iraq

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I'll ask another question (4.00 / 1)
Why is it that any Republican can get away with talking about leaving the troops abandoned in the field without a Democrat coming back with "So their commander in chief would just leave them there?"

John McCain opposes the GI Bill.

Excellent Point (0.00 / 0)
I have never understood that argument either.  It is as if we assume Bush is a lunatic and we accept that it is our responsibility to not  upset him.

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[ Parent ]
Don't poke the bear n/t (0.00 / 0)

John McCain opposes the GI Bill.

[ Parent ]
Here's a question for you (0.00 / 0)
Who are HRC, Obama and Edwards appealing to by leaving open the door for a permanent force in Iraq? Who really wants that besides folks who are never going to vote for them anyway?  Big donors?  Think tank ideological soulmates?

I poked at this issue in the Obama thread over on dk and the obamists claim was either that residual forces are good and necessary, OR not important.  Pretty bizarre discussion and kinda discouraging for what it says about how people conduct themselves after they've picked their candidate.

Edwards does not leave residual forces (0.00 / 0)
His plan says that all combat troops would leave within a year.  Only marines to protect the embassy and possibly some protection of humanitarian missions.  He has been on the record saying we won't have permanent bases in Iraq.  He has said that things may get worse in Iraq once the US leaves.  There may be a need to help some Iraqis leave.  In a interview he said that no one knows what will happen and some decisions may have to be made as circumstances develop, but he is clear we won't have a military solution to the problem.

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[ Parent ]
he certainly does (0.00 / 0)
though not to the extent I thought, or that either Obama or HRC's plans could be stretched.  See the mydd exchange with the Edwards campaign itself here. 

GWB and RC have created a "fact on the ground" of American military force in the region and Democratic plans that use that unconscionable fact on the ground by finding other things for residual forces to do don't fix the problem.  They merely cement the neocon victory of making the US military the hammer that pounds down all those pesky Middle East nails.  The problem is the "fact on the ground", not the myriad plans everyone has for using that fact on the ground.

Even Edwards minor exceptions to the complete withdrawal meme (and his plan is better than I first thought) fall apart under the slightest pressure. 

To whit: he says that he'll keep troops there to protect civilians.  Which civilians?  We've already covered the embassy and its Marine guard (and boy those guys haven't gotten this much attention since The Boxer Rebellion).  So which civilians are we talking about?  Oil workers?  Mmmm, that doesn't seem like a very good idea.  NGOs like Medicine Sans Frontieres, or WHO?  Seems unlikely they'd get involved if they thought they'd need that kind of help.  Or is it those reconstruction experts we've been deploying?  Isn't it the case that reconstruction, like the rest of this fiasco, is a huge disaster with literally no prospect for success merely BECAUSE it's our project?  Gotta say, I'm not a big fan of any reconstruction project that has Made In America stamped on it.  Who's left?  Missionaries?  I'm not signing on to that either. 

And preventing genocide?  Well, with just a little conflation (the national sport) you can make the case that the ethnic cleansing that's going on there right now IS genocide, and so we're back to thousands of Americans stomping around Iraq shooting people and blowing things up.

It seems to me that even way out here on the left we have yet to grasp what a complete disaster we have wrought and the fact that we can not fix it even a little bit for no other reason than because we are who we are.

[ Parent ]
The power of the purse is (0.00 / 0)
a myth, at least regarding withdrawal.

But there's no excuse for our candidates not to be extremely clear about residual forces.

What will Obama do in the Senate now? (0.00 / 0)
I agree you Matt.
What is important is what Obama will do as a Senator.
Will he continue to appropriate endless supplies of money for this war that he says he opposes?
Will he urge members of congress to vote against further funding?
Will he act to mobilize the electorate to swamp congress with mails, calls and email demanding that they cease funding the war - providing funds only necessary for the withdrawal of our troops?

My guess is "no". He won't.

Even his "plan" would take a year and a half. How many unnecessary casualties will take place in that amount of time?

I don't know why no one has questioned Obama about his support for Lieberman's re-election. He just reiterated that he opposed the war in 2006,
but that is the year that he stumped for Lieberman. Lieberman's presence in the Senate has been a major stumbling block to ending the war - and Obama encouraged it.


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