Washington Post: Obama’s Timetable Is ‘Arbitrary & Foolish’
“Yesterday Mr. Obama said, “They said we couldn’t leave [Iraq] when violence was up, they say we can’t leave when violence is down.” Obama then confirmed his own foolish consistency. He appears to have decided sticking to his arbitrary timetable is more important than adjusting to the dramatic, positive changes in Iraq.
Mr. Obama’s charge against the Republicans was not entirely fair, since Mr. Bush has overseen the withdrawal of five American brigades from Iraq this year, and Mr. McCain has suggested that he would bring most of the rest of the troops home by early 2013. Mr. Obama’s timeline would end in the summer of 2010, a year or two before the earliest dates proposed recently by members of the Iraqi government. The real difference between the various plans is not the dates but the conditions: Both the Iraqis and Mr. McCain say the withdrawal would be linked to the ability of Iraqi forces to take over from U.S. troops, as they have begun to do. Mr. Obama’s strategy allows no such linkage — his logic is that a timetable unilaterally dictated from Washington is necessary to force Iraqis to take responsibility for the country.
At the time he first proposed his timetable, Mr. Obama argued — wrongly, as it turned out — that U.S. troops could not stop a sectarian civil war. He conceded that a withdrawal might be accompanied by a “spike” in violence. Now, he describes as “an achievable goal” that “we leave Iraq to a government that is taking responsibility for its future — a government that prevents sectarian conflict and ensures that the al-Qaeda threat which has been beaten back by our troops does not reemerge.” How will that “true success” be achieved? By the same pullout that Mr. Obama proposed when chaos in Iraq appeared to him inevitable?
“What’s missing in our debate,” Mr. Obama said yesterday, “is a discussion of the strategic consequences of Iraq.” … Indeed: The message that the Democrat sends is that he is ultimately indifferent to the war’s outcome — that Iraq “distracts us from every threat we face” and thus must be speedily evacuated regardless of the consequences. That’s an irrational and ahistorical way to view a country at the strategic center of the Middle East, with some of the world’s largest oil reserves.
Whether or not the war was a mistake, Iraq’s future is a vital U.S. security interest. If he is elected president, Mr. Obama sooner or later will have to tailor his Iraq strategy to that reality. “