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21 March 2008


Barack Obama makes no bones about ending US involvement in Iraq. For the most part he fits our thinking to to a "Tee"--almost! When he gives a timetable, he makes us pause. Consider his most recent pronouncements; we quote:

[Running commentary]
  • End the war in Iraq, removing our troops at a pace of 1 to 2 combat brigades per month; [See below]
  • Finally finish the fight against the Taliban, root out al Qaeda and invest in the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan, while making aid to the Pakistani government conditional; [One condition might be stability--a very tough condition to meet. Developing a national infrastructure might be another as would be eductation.]
  • Act aggressively to stop nuclear proliferation and to secure all loose nuclear materials around the world; [The Devil is in the details here.]
  • Double our foreign assistance to cut extreme poverty in half; [This is OK, but unless we also actively encourage development of infrastructures, no amount of foreign aid will have any long-term effect.]
  • Invest in a clean energy future to wean the U.S. off of foreign oil and to lead the world against the threat of global climate change; [Amen and the emphasis must be on solar and renewable sources. But the corn lobby will be a problem; technically, corn is not at all the best choice for making alcohol.]
  • Rebuild our military capability by increasing the number of soldiers, marines, and special forces troops, and insist on adequate training and time off between deployments;
  • Renew American diplomacy by talking to our adversaries as well as our friends; increasing the size of the Foreign Service and the Peace Corps; and creating an America's Voice Corps. [BRAVO! Along with this should go education.]

We endorse Obama's strategic approach; nothing else will work. His details are far superior to the Cheney/Rumsfeld approach. But we worry about the pace for two reasons:

  • We are not on the ground in Iraq, but the fact that Petreaus's new and friendlier approach is working independently of the surge, his frienly approach might give the Iraqi government some breathing room. Any new approach needs to reestablish the many institutions that are necessary to maintain a stable government. Stable government requires a stable "middle class," or to put it more politically correct, a well-developed nationl infrastructure. A somewhat slower rate might well be better in the long run.
  • On the other hand, if, as many think, any Iraqi government as tainted by American interests as this one is will ultimately fall regardless of what we do, then absolutely, the sooner we leave the better.

The public media has no answer, but our intelligence services should.

Another Obama quote:

    "The judgment that matters most on Iraq--and on any decision to deploy military force--is the judgment made first."

Obama is spot on as far as he goes. But isn't every decision, not just the first one, a critical one? Just because Bush made a gross error and stubbornly stuck with it does not mean current decisions are not as critical as his first one. The future of humanity seems more precarious today than it did in 2001 -- making today's decisions even more important. How we exit from Iraq matters; this is a real concern. Vigorous discussions, considered from all angles, should precede any disengagement in Iraq. Ultimately, our only choice is to leave. It is the when and how that matter now--and they matter a lot. Ultimately, the only way Iraq will ever become peaceful is if it develops a stable infrastructure and its government has enough time to institutionalize constitutional law. The form of the government matters less than its stability. But with three warring factions with long histories of violence toward each other all bound together by Islam may be more than any US-designed government can control, no matter how long we stay.


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