Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
February 1, 2007
WAR/POLITICS: Obama's Trumpet



You might have missed the news, in between media reports on Barack Obama's wonderful fabulousness and media reports on Senator Obama's fabulous wonderfulness, but on Tuesday, Illinois' junior senator released his "responsible yet effective" plan for victory in withdrawal from Iraq. (I love the "yet" and its implication that we should be surprised that a responsible plan could be effective, or an effective plan responsible). We know the plan is a responsible one because the press release says so 8 times, and Senator Obama is a responsible man.

I'll pass over the separation of powers problems in passing binding legislation; Obama is running for president, so this plan is best evaluated as what he would do in the big chair. How does the plan stack up?

The key element:

De-escalates the War with Phased Redeployment: Commences a phased redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq not later than May 1, 2007, with the goal that all combat brigades redeploy from Iraq by March 31, 2008, a date consistent with the expectation of the Iraq Study Group. This redeployment will be both substantial and gradual, and will be planned and implemented by military commanders. Makes clear that Congress believes troops should be redeployed to the United States; to Afghanistan; and to other points in the region. A residual U.S. presence may remain in Iraq for force protection, training of Iraqi security forces, and pursuit of international terrorists.

"Redeploy," of course, has no meaning here other than withdrawal. The only ways to withdraw the troops without redeploying them would be to discharge them from the military or kill them. So let's call this what Obama fears to say it is: withdrawal. Still, the "to the United States; to Afghanistan; and to other points in the region" language at least recognizes that he's not talking about Okinawa.

Then there's the word "De-escalates" - which implies that the current U.S. policy constitutes an escalation. Not only does this improperly blame the U.S. rather than the parties conducting the violence, it's inconsistent with Obama's assertion elsewhere in the press release that the current conflict constitutes "somebody else's civil war." Which is it - are we escalating the war, or is it somebody else's fight we're trying to stop?

Note also the effort to hide behind the ISG for withdrawal dates that look deliberately aimed at the expectation of Democratic primary voters.

Much of the rest of the plan rehashes the same things everyone wants (training, progress on security, economic and political issues) but congeals them into demands to be enforced by Congressional oversight. Then we get to the capper:

Regional Diplomacy: Launches a comprehensive regional and international diplomatic initiative - that includes key nations in the region - to help achieve a political settlement among the Iraqi people, end the civil war in Iraq, and prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and regional conflict. Recommends the President should appoint a Special Envoy for Iraq to carry out this diplomacy within 60 days. Mandates that the President submit a plan to prevent the war in Iraq from becoming a wider regional conflict.

Here is where Obama's Kerryite streak really comes out: "key nations in the region" obviously refers to Iran and Syria, at a minimum, so already we're talking about negotiating with these countries without openly admitting what they are doing that requires us to negotiate with them. Obama says that these foreign nations should be asked "to help achieve a political settlement among the Iraqi people," so right there he's admitting that foreign powers are going to be handed influence in domestic Iraqi affairs, the sort of cold-blooded realpolitik that Obama's Kenyan ancestors were so frequently on the receiving end of and that any true liberal ought to find appalling. Now, diplomacy can work sometimes (and is preferable when it has a chance to do so) - if you have as much leverage as the other guy. Negotiations, after all, are war by other means. But what does Obama set as the conditions on negotiating? First, impose an arbitrary 60-day deadline (with unspecified consequences). Our adversaries, being subject to no such pressure and facing no consequences for delay, can be expected to do precisely that. Second, impose a mandate to avoid "a wider regional conflict," presumably meaning war with Iran. In other words, take the threat of force against the people we are negotiating with off the table.

The best that can be said of this plan is that it is probably not meant to be taken literally, and that Senator Obama can be forgiven, as a foreign policy neophyte, for issuing such a hash. But that's not much comfort to people who expect him to jog across the Potomac into the White House.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:00 PM | Politics 2008 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)


What is your solution to solve the current proxy war with Iran? Also, can you name one modern war that was not solve by diplomacy? As it stands we are currently at a position of weakness we have two wars going and an over stretched military. Because of the conduct of the war by this current administration we can not attack Iran. You can not fight a war on two fronts (front and theater are two different terms).

Posted by: Javaman at February 1, 2007 7:37 PM

Javaman: Is WWII consider modern? The Allied militaries did their job of defeating the Axis powers. Not sure many of those Eastern Block nations would say the diplomatic end was as successful.

And did we "solve" Vietnam? Was the diplomacy that "solved" the 1st Gulf War the model to be used for all wars to come?

Finally, were we not in Iraq right now, we'd instead be worrying about TWO potential nuclear powers in the MidEast. Not sure that'd make our military options any clearer.

Posted by: Maryland Conservatarian at February 2, 2007 7:48 AM

Yeah, that Obama's such an idiot. The American people have made it clear they want to get the troops out of Bagdad immediately, and out of Iraq eventually. But he should ignore them and fight on. More sacrifice, more blood.

How dare he put the will of the people above fealty to the Commander-in-Chief. Traitor!

Why does Obama hate America?

Posted by: Mike at February 2, 2007 7:56 AM

errr, we are still worried about North Korea nukes. Also Iran is on the door step for a nuke exactly how has us being in Iraq slowed them down. It is now fact Iraq was no where near to having a nuke it was all a bluff.

It takes a combination of diplomacy and military might to solve wars not just military might. Please reread your history books MC.

Posted by: Javaman at February 2, 2007 8:23 AM

I'm not objecting to diplomacy in the abstract, as I made clear in the post. I'm objecting to (1) Obama's naive ideas about how you conduct diplomacy and (2) the idea that we should negotiate with Iran and Syria, specifically.

Posted by: The Crank at February 2, 2007 9:37 AM

I would add that the war in Afghanistan was not resolved by diplomatic means.

Posted by: The Crank at February 2, 2007 9:43 AM

Never knew the war in Afghanistan was over.

Posted by: javaman at February 2, 2007 9:48 AM

I have the perfect solution to this situation. It should please both the withdraw from Iraq crowd and the we have to deal with Iran group. It is really very simple, we redeploy our tropps from Iran. Iraqi forces are doing a nice job of stepping up and without the Iranians stirring up problems their job wold be much easier.

Posted by: maddirishman at February 2, 2007 9:52 AM

At least, after all this stupidity (amazing how many wars get started over stupid things--read up on WWI), our entire country finally gets that the real problem in the Middle East resides in two countries: Iran and Saudi Arabia. I still think W trusts the Saudis, but I bet most of the country doesn't.

Putting troops in Iran will do nothing more than unify their country, when a large number of Iranians are getting sick and tired of their theocracy. The best way to do them in is the same way we did the Soviets. Go to our strength, which is not, and never really was, send in troops to kill them all. Our strength is our economic system, and how we deploy it. Now that even WalMart is signing on for an enhanced energy strategy, the Iranians (and the Saudi Oil terrorists-and the bankers are just as guilty) will not be able to match our economic planning.

If warfare is politics by other means, then so is economics. I say battle our enemies on our terms, not theirs.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at February 2, 2007 12:01 PM

Good thing we did not negotiate with the warlords in Afghanistan. Oops we did.
We have no leverage to stop Iran and Syria from fighting this proxy war with us. Do you really think sanctions will work with the world currently on an oil glut? I know I know, lets just keep threating them attacks. Sometimes you have to sit at the table with your enemies to regain leverage.

Posted by: javaman at February 2, 2007 12:28 PM

Where, exactly, have "the American People" made it clear that they want out of Baghdad immediately, Mike? Does "the American People" mean the MSM? The folks on NPR? The people who have bumper stickers that say "out of Iraq now"? There are few Americans that I have spoken with that support the indefinite continuation of the war in Iraq. But I've met even fewer who espouse an idea as foolish as immediate withdrawal. And I live in Seattle, not exactly a haven of conservative, Bush-loving thought.

Posted by: Joel Baughman at February 2, 2007 1:06 PM

Java, cutting deals with the inside players, basically mercenary forces, is not analogous to sitting down with the enemy, the Taliban. As Bin Laden assassinated a prominent warlord prior to the Sept 11th attack, he knew the game. And we played it successfully.

Posted by: abe at February 2, 2007 2:06 PM

Joel -

I advise you to examine the Election Day results from last November. Look at how various candidates faired based on their stance on Iraq & support for Bush.

If you want to spin the results into something else, be my guest. But don't expect me to agree.

Posted by: Mike at February 2, 2007 3:41 PM


There are stances on Iraq other than "leaving immediately" and "staying indefinitely" which you are ignoring. "Most Americans" favor a solution that will allow us to get out of Iraq ASAP while also not abandoning Iraq to complete chaos.

There are a lot of other ways to spin those results - like ethics, general ineffectiveness, runaway earmark spending that pissed off Republicans' core voting group, etc. Contrary to your belief and the media's, the 2006 election was not a referendum on the war in Iraq. While that was certainly a factor, there were a lot of others in play, as well. Though if you spoke to a lot of people who said "gee, I would have voted republican, but I really want the war in Iraq to end now!" I can admit that I'm wrong. Though I seriously doubt that's the case.

Posted by: Joel Baughman at February 2, 2007 4:38 PM

Joel -

Please re-read my initial e-mail carefully. I said, The American people have made it clear they want to get the troops out of Bagdad immediately, and out of Iraq eventually.

I'm most definitely not ignoring stances on Iraq other than "leaving immediately" and "staying indefinitely".

Posted by: Mike at February 2, 2007 4:56 PM

I appreciate the clarification. But still I'm not sure where the American people have said they want troops out of Baghdad immediately. If you're using the election as proof of that, I'm not sure I follow.

Our presence in Baghdad is pretty essential to our presence in Iraq. If you're talking about the plan to basically pull out Baghdad to secure the borders against outsiders, I don't remember that being on any state's ballot in the last election.

Posted by: Joel Baughman at February 2, 2007 6:55 PM

Abe, those same ragtags we used to fight the proxy war with Bin Laden and the Taliban. Our options with Iran is very limited.

Posted by: Javaman at February 3, 2007 4:57 PM

Java, different stokes for different folks. You fight with what you have. I agree, our options with Iran are different. The pentagon has proved to be flexible. That will pay dividends, and occasionally bite you in the ass. We are in a brawl that started in the 90's; we can finish or we can turtle. Our peaceful opponents liken rape to eating untended meat. Hit Starbucks again, we can't lose. This time it is for all the marbles.

Posted by: abe at February 3, 2007 11:19 PM
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