February 11, 2008

Not Ready For Prime Time

Barack Obama appeared on 60 Minutes last night, and once again he offered change. Unfortunately, the kind of change offered appeared to be the same he accuses his opponents of offering -- waffling on the status of troops in Iraq. After cheerfully misrepresenting John McCain's "100 years" comment, he then left himself the leeway to make exactly the same kind of decision:

"Well, I think, on the positive side, we've seen a reduction in violence. And I don't think anybody can deny that," Obama said. "What we haven't seen is the kind of political reconciliation or accommodation between the Sunni and the Shia and the Kurds that are required in order for Iraq to stabilize. But I completely reject the notion, you know, most forcefully presented by John McCain that we should commit ourselves to a 50-year or a 60-year or a 100-year occupation in order to assure stability in Iraq. I think that is a recipe for disaster."

"At a time when American casualties are down, at a time when the violence is down, particularly affecting the Iraqi population, is that the right time to try and set time tables for withdrawing all American troops? I mean you talked about…the end of 2009," Kroft remarked.

"Yeah, absolutely. I think now is precisely the time. I think that it is very important for us to send a clear signal to the Iraqis that we are not gonna be here permanently. We're not gonna set up permanent bases. That they are going to have to resolve their differences and get their country functioning," Obama said.

"And you pull out according to that time table, regardless of the situation? Even if there’s serious sectarian violence?" Kroft asked.

"No, I always reserve as commander in chief, the right to assess the situation," Obama replied.

First, the 100 years comment by McCain did not envision us in a 100 Years War in Iraq. The answer came in response to a question about the need for an extended American presence in the Persian Gulf. McCain compared the situation to American bases in Germany, Japan, and South Korea, all of which have existed for over half a century. McCain envisioned a similar arrangement with Iraq as part of a strategic positioning of US forces -- not as an ongoing war.

Obama tried to continue the mischaracterization that Democrats have decided to perpetuate, according to The Politico's Jonathan Martin. They're going to paint McCain as the harbinger of 10,000 years of war. No, I'm not kidding. Here's the YouTube:

Again, what McCain said was that the length of time makes little difference as long as the strategic aims remain relevant. One does not put timetables on these kinds of efforts. If they're necessary, as the German and Japanese bases were during the Cold War and as the South Korean bases still are, then they stay. Did John Kennedy go to Berlin and say that we needed a timetable to withdraw from our side of the Brandenburg Gate? Or did he tell Berliners that all free men had a stake in remaining where liberty was threatened?

And then, risibly, Obama makes the exact point that Bush, McCain, and even Hillary make about Iraq. As a CinC, he would have to have the options for staying open to him if the strategic situation called for an extended deployment. What if that remained true for the next five years? The next ten? What if the need to counter Islamist terror remained for the next 100 years?

Obama has a gift for communication and a heart in the right place. What he lacks is a specific agenda, an ability to make decisions, and a platform other than the vapid redundancy of "change". He isn't ready for prime time.


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