Tuesday, October 14, 2008

On Iraq...

On Iraq specifically, Obama had to go left of Hillary to even have a chance at the nomination. He studied the opinion polls, and saw a political opening to energize a voting bloc turned-off by Hilary's vote for war and subsequent defense of it. So Obama came out and called for an unequivocal retreat from Iraq. He even introduced the Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007, that would have withdrawn all of our forces from Iraq by as early as May of this year.

When his candidacy was still considered a long shot, Obama took note of the way the political winds were blowing and raised a sail. On November 20, 2006, he spoke to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and commented regarding the proposed "Surge" of combat troops, "While some have proposed escalating this war by adding thousands of more troops, there is little reason to believe that this will achieve [victory]."

That "some" who he was referring to was John McCain. In fact, John McCain didn't care that a vast majority of Americans opposed increasing troop levels in Iraq. He stood by President Bush's decision (He'd argue that it was his idea in the first place) in direct contrast to what Obama and the ENTIRE Democrat party was saying at the time. It was the least popular political stance to take, but McCain said, "I'd rather lose an election, than lose a war."

Today, all major indicators of violence in Iraq have dropped by between 40 and 80 percent since February 2007, when President Bush committed an additional 30,000 troops to the war. Civilian deaths have dropped from a peak of nearly 4,000 a month from December 2006 to January 2007 to about 500 a month as of May, and U.S. troop deaths have dropped from 126 in May 2007 to an all-time low of 19 in May 2008.

A "victory" may not yet have been reached by some standards, but the improvements realized are undeniable, and the Iraqis are talking about security self-sufficiency.

Is the positive turn of events all because of the Surge? Probably not. More of a combination of several factors to include the "Anbar Awakening" and the retreat of al-Sadr...however, make no mistake, the additional troops on the ground have stabilized what was once referred to by Joe Biden as "first and foremost a civil war," and allowed for the increased safety of the Iraqi people and the improvement of the basic situation.

Had we followed Obama and the Democrats' politically driven course of Iraq De-escalation in 2006, do you think that Iraq would have been better off? Regardless of your opinion on whether or not we should have invaded to begin with, I hold a firm belief that had we just up and left when it was red-hot-out-of-control as it was when Obama proposed doing so, the civil war referred to by Joe Biden would have escalated into a full-blown regional conflict. Sure, American lives would have been saved, but at what cost to our global reputation or overall international security? What would have happened to oil prices when the Saudis and Iranians opened up a proxy war between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq? I'm glad I only have to imagine these scenarios.

Of course, now that its politically convenient with the Democratic nomination wrapped up, and as Iraq fades from the daily headlines, Obama can try to publicly distance himself from the moveon.org and codepink crowd (watch this video) he cozied up to last year. If I was a die-hard anti-war voter, I would be outraged at how Obama played me for a fool. His Iraq De-escalation Act was nothing more than a ploy to get primary votes.

In a major policy shift, he went from a total withdrawal by May 08, to advocating a "gradual" 16-month withdrawal schedule that allows Obama more political freedom to attract Independent and moderate Republican voters.

None of this makes me (an Independent moderate) feel any more comfortable in selecting a political opportunist as the Commander in Chief, with my brother in the Army Reserve. It's also worth noting that military members favor McCain over Obama, 68 percent to 23 percent.

As some within the Democrat party contend, our military is not broken, our troops are not demoralized. The U.S. has the most experienced, battle-hardened force in the world. Lessons have been learned from our mistakes in Iraq, and that country is not trisected into feuding fiefdoms as argued by Joe Biden, but an emerging consensual state.

With that, I don't believe in "more war." Nor do I care to see the U.S. military extended into any new combat theaters. Personally, my gut feeling is to trust a man with his own two sons in the military to make the right decision when it comes to invading another country. McCain also showed tremendous resolve (or stubborness) in sticking with his convictions on the surge when many politicians, both Republican and Democrat, thought it would have been best to withdraw.

In contrast, Obama has not shown me that he has any real understanding or experience in global affairs beyond doing and saying what's necessary to win a Democratic Presidential nomination. Further, his political maneuvering on this critical issue makes me question his judgment and doubt his overall sincerity.

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