Obama’s position on withdrawing all combat brigades from Iraq w/in 16 mos.: Just words?

Fox News reports that The Chosen One’s public position on withdrawing all combat bridgades from Iraq might be kinda like his public position on the evilness of NAFTA and his rhetoric on wanting to heal racial and religious divides: just words (via ST reader NC Cop) – emphasis added:

As Barack Obama continues to criticize John McCain for saying he’s willing to keep a 100-year troop presence in Iraq, another Obama adviser has suggested U.S. forces could stay in Iraq longer than the Democratic candidate initially thought.

Adviser Colin Kahl wrote in a policy paper for the Center for a New American Security that the United States should transition to an “over-watch” force of between 60,000 and 80,000 troops by the end of 2010, according to an article Friday in the New York Sun.

That appears to be at odds with Obama’s public position of removing all combat brigades from the country within 16 months of taking office.

Kahl told the Sun his plan would still keep the U.S. “out of the lead” and mainly in a “support role.” He said the plan had nothing to do with the campaign.

The Obama campaign said in a statement: “The writing of Mr. Kahl, one of hundreds of outside advisers to the campaign, is not representative of Barack Obama’s consistent policy position on the Iraq war.”

But Kahl’s plan seems to jibe with other advisers’ statements that Obama’s withdrawal timetables are more a goal than a firm policy commitment.

Foreign policy adviser Susan Rice, for instance, told reporters in February that Obama’s plan to end the war in 2009 is not absolute, and that he reserves the right to revisit troop levels in Iraq upon taking the oath of office.

Former foreign policy adviser Samantha Power told the BBC that Obama’s 16-month plan is a “best-scenario” and that the reality is he will try to withdraw troops “as quickly and responsibly as possible.”

Her comments were actually a little more detailed that that. Here are her full remarks:

Power downplayed Obama’s commitment to quick withdrawal from Iraq on Hard Talk, a program that often exceeds any of the U.S. talk shows in the rigor of its grillings. She was challenged on Obama’s Iraq plan, as it appears on his website, which says that Obama “will remove one to two combat brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months.”

“What he’s actually said, after meting with the generals and meeting with intelligence professionals, is that you – at best case scenario – will be able to withdraw one to two combat brigades each month. That’s what they’re telling him. He will revisit it when he becomes president,” Power says.

The host, Stephen Sackur, challenged her:”So what the American public thinks is a commitment to get combat forces out in 16 months isn’t a commitment isn’t it?”

“You can’t make a commitment in March 2008 about what circumstances will be like in January of 2009,” she said. “He will, of course, not rely on some plan that he’s crafted as a presidential candidate or a U.S. Senator. He will rely upon a plan – an operational plan – that he pulls together in consultation with people who are on the ground to whom he doesn’t have daily access now, as a result of not being the president. So to think – it would be the height of ideology to sort of say, ‘Well, I said it, therefore I’m going to impose it on whatever reality greets me.'”

“It’s a best-case scenario,” she said again.

It’s nuanced, you see.

More from the Fox News piece:

Obama later affirmed that he would bring the war “to an end in 2009.”

Both Clinton and Obama have talked about keeping some U.S. presence in Iraq after withdrawing the bulk of American troops, but it’s unclear how broad that presence would be. Obama’s Web site states that “some troops” would stay in Iraq to protect U.S. embassies and diplomats and carry out targeted strikes on Al Qaeda if the organization tries to keep a base in Iraq after U.S. withdrawal.

Obama talked about keeping a “strike force” in the region Monday. That drew questions from McCain who asked, “Where are they based? What do they do? Now I’m intrigued. He has said he will pull out all troops before. How do you reconcile those two?”

Here’s the NY Sun piece, for the record.

So how many combat brigades is he going to withdraw, and in what time frame? Does he even have a clue? Yeah, I know the answer to that: It’s “hell no.”

Here we have another example of Barack Obama engaging in the “politics of the past” he so often decries in other politicians. He looks you in the eye and says one thing in public, over and over again in order to win over voters, but when you look at the fine print – or listen to what his key advisors are telling people, what he’s saying isn’t as clear cut as he’s made it out to be. Or in the case of McCain’s 100 years in Iraq comment, Obama knows he’s flat out lying, but he asserts the lie anyway again and again, purposely trying to mislead people about McCain’s position on leaving combat forces in Iraq, when it’s become more and more clear from his advisors that his own position would leave a significant number of combat brigades in Iraq – not just a few hundred for his “strike force” but possibly thousands – for longer than he’s telling his supporters. By his own logic and repeated falsehoods about McCain’s position on staying in Iraq, leaving that amount of forces in Iraq is tantamount to “wanting” to keep the Iraq war going, isn’t it? Will severely disillusioned anti-war supporters of BO start calling him a “warmonger” now?

And for anyone who thinks, “Hey, if this is true, it means Barack Obama isn’t planning on cutting and running after all,” just think of all the shifting positions he’s taken on the issue of the war in Iraq, in particular since he started running for president, and tell me with a straight face that you believe anything he says about it anymore. Not only that, but even if he did carry through and leave a number of combat brigades in Iraq til 2010 (assuming they are still needed), do we really trust this guy to be the Commander in Chief? The same guy who has said more than once that the deaths of our troops were “wasted” deaths all because of a “lie,” who believes the war was a “mistake,” and who routinely downplays the victories we’ve seen in Iraq since the start of the surge? Back in 2004, I expressed a similar belief about Obama supporter John Kerry:

Yes, we’ve got problems in Iraq and they’re being addressed and will continue to be. However, any President, as a Commander in Chief, must stay resolute and not waver in tough times. While acknowledging there are serious situations in Iraq to be dealt with, this President (along with Allawi) also has appropriately presented to the American people the positive side of what’s happening in Iraq because we need to hear both sides of the story. We generally only get one side of it in the mainstream press. John Kerry has given us his plan for how he’ll handle the situation in Iraq should he be elected President. Fine. But the face he puts on any comments he makes about Iraq is the face of someone who really wishes he’d never voted in favor of the war resolution, and would rather walk on hot glass barefooted than to have to deal with the consequences of it. Our troops, and the Iraqi people and the terrorists they face there, MUST see strength in a Commander in Chief, not pessimism and certainly not weakness.

This is not the time for jello spines from our world leaders, in particular, a US President. Our men and women (alongside the coalition and the people of Iraq who are fighting with us) are in the fights of their lives there right now and the last thing they need is a shaky CIC who regrets voting to send them there in the first place who’ll do little more than the bare minimum required there to get them out, rather than seeing the goal of democracy come to fruition in a place where it would do such good, not only for the people who live there, but for the region, and in fact the world. The sacrifices our troops have made, and continue to make, should not be made in vain for purposes of expediency. The President understands that. In my opinion, John Kerry does not.

And neither, in my opinion, does Barack Obama.

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