O’Hanlon: Obama’s Iraq policy now “ambiguous”

posted at 5:10 pm on July 3, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Barack Obama has begun his journey to the middle on Iraq, and in the process has made hash of the one position that opened the door to his nomination.  Michael O’Hanlon told Fox News that his new position as stated in North Dakota contradicts his earlier position in a key point, and that the Obama position has been rendered “ambiguous”.  While the Brookings Institute fellow predicted long-term political support, the problem is that the new policy makes no sense to either side of the debate:

O’Hanlon, in pre-taped interview with me earlier today, described Obama’s Iraq position as “ambiguous” because it defined a hard and measurable goal of withdrawing virtually all U.S. combat brigades within 16 months while at the same time saying Obama would consult with generals on the ground in Iraq for their opinion.

O’Hanlon told me these were positions at odds with one another because he said no general in Iraq now believes all combat brigades can be removed that rapidly without a sizable lose of stability in Iraq and without risking a possible resurgence of Al Qaeda activity or insurgent-fed violence.

O’Hanlon tried to call it an evolution rather than a flip-flop.  However, Obama’s answer to Chris Wallace in April shows that the sudden concern over the advice of generals in Iraq represents a complete change from his earlier position:

WALLACE: I want to ask you about presidents and listening to generals. Petraeus, as I don’t have to tell you, is the architect of the troop surge, a strong advocate of our continued engagement in Iraq.

If you become commander in chief, and he says your plan to get out of Iraq is a mistake, will you replace him?

OBAMA: I will listen to General Petraeus given the experience that he has accumulated over the last several years. It would be stupid of me to ignore what he has to say.

But it is my job as president, it would be my job as commander in chief, to set the mission, to make the strategic decisions in light of the problems that we’re having in Afghanistan, in light of the problems that we are having in Pakistan, the fact that Al Qaida is strengthening, as our national intelligence estimates have indicated, since 2001.

And so we’ve got a whole host of tasks. And I’ve also got to worry about the fact that the military has no strategic reserve right now. If we have an emergency in the Korean peninsula, if we had an emergency elsewhere in the world, we don’t have the troops right now to deal with it.

And that’s not my opinion, that’s the…

WALLACE: So would you replace him or would you just say, “I’m the commander in chief, follow my order?”

OBAMA: What I would do is I would say — what I will do is say, “We have a new mission. It is my strategic assessment that we have to provide a time table to the Iraqi government. I want you to tell me how best to execute this new assignment, and I am happy to listen to the tactical considerations and any ideas you have, but what I will not do is to continue to let the Iraqi government off the hook and allow them to put our foreign policy on ice while they dither about making decisions about how they’re going to cooperate with each other.”

Obama made the point plain two months ago: the President sets the strategic goals, and the generals carry out his orders.  Period, full stop, as Obama himself said in a speech this week.  Now suddenly Obama has decided that he should listen to the generals before setting the strategic goals, which is not just a flip-flop, but really an opening for a full-fledged abandonment of the position that won him the support of the netroots and the nomination.

The question, of course, is why Obama didn’t bother to consult with these commanders before taking his public position on Iraq.  He could have traveled to Iraq any time during the campaign, especially in April before emphasizing his withdrawal-at-all-costs policy on Fox News.  Instead, he famously spurned the opportunity to do a joint briefing with John McCain and intimated that he didn’t need a briefing to understand the issue.  Now, suddenly, he’s begun backpedaling even before he sets foot in Iraq.

Ambiguous?  It’s a collapse.  By emphasizing stability and moving away from even the 16-month plan he had cited as “responsible”, he has all but adopted the John McCain position of no withdrawal without victory.  That, as Allahpundit noted, is good news for the war effort, but it exposes Obama as either a naif or a politician willing to sell his own grandmother for power — and perhaps both at the same time.  With this reversal coming on top of the FISA reform flip-flop, he has completely thrown the netroots under the bus, along with MoveOn and Code Pink.

And, of course, it still leaves us with the essential question: whither Obama?  Because if he can sell out his political allies this easily just to gain a few votes from the center, nothing would stop him from betraying his new policy stands once elected if he saw any personal political gain from doing so.  Simply put, he can’t be trusted.

Obama painted himself as a New Politics statesman who didn’t play the Beltway game.  Not only has he exposed himself as a charlatan to all sides now, he has no principles left on which to stand, and few friends left to defend him.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Michelle Obama said Barack would take us out of our comfort levels. Little did she know that Barack would take Barack out of his comfort levels :P

lorien1973 on July 3, 2008 at 5:14 PM

It’s not “Ambiguous” it’s “Teh Artful”

- The Cat

MirCat on July 3, 2008 at 5:14 PM

I am getting a migraine just reading this.

Good LORD, this is worse the Clinton.

upinak on July 3, 2008 at 5:17 PM

Obama made the point plain two months ago: the President sets the strategic goals, and the generals carry out his orders. Period, full stop, as Obama himself said in a speech this week. Now suddenly Obama has decided that he should listen to the generals before setting the strategic goals

That is too subtle a point for the masses to pick up on, I think.

pseudonominus on July 3, 2008 at 5:18 PM

The nutroots are already melting down. heh heh heh

JustTruth101 on July 3, 2008 at 5:19 PM

Not only has he exposed himself as a charlatan to all sides now, he has no principles left on which to stand, and few friends left to defend him.

Who needs “freinds” when you have the Cult of Personality; legions of brain-dead followers?

pseudonominus on July 3, 2008 at 5:21 PM

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

TroubledMonkey on July 3, 2008 at 5:21 PM

6 yes count-em 6 Obama threads on the left side of this
HotAir site.

I’m gonna throw up again. . . .

Texyank on July 3, 2008 at 5:22 PM

……… that didn’t take long.

Surprised…….. not.

Seven Percent Solution on July 3, 2008 at 5:22 PM

It’s not “Ambiguous” it’s “Teh Artful”

- The Cat

MirCat on July 3, 2008 at 5:14 PM

Paint by Numbers

geckomon on July 3, 2008 at 5:22 PM

That, as Allahpundit noted, is good news for the war effort, but it exposes Obama as either a naif or a politician willing to sell his own grandmother for power —

I have another theory. And this theory may mean that Obama understands the war on terror or at least is willing to.

Rightwingsparkle on July 3, 2008 at 5:23 PM

I’m gonna throw up again. . . .

Texyank on July 3, 2008 at 5:22 PM

You hold my hair I will hold yours.

upinak on July 3, 2008 at 5:23 PM

Do the anti war nuts and the loony left that got him this nomination have any idea of the size of the hot poker he just shoved up their butts?

rplat on July 3, 2008 at 5:25 PM

Ambiguity = Hope and Change.

Claypigeon on July 3, 2008 at 5:27 PM

This is nothing folks. He will soon claim that HE “pressured” the Bush Administration to change their plan in Iraq and take credit for “the Surge.” He will say that the Pressure HE and the Democrat Party put on Bush resulted in the Surge and the Surge working. Bet on it. It’s only left to blogs and talk radio to call him out because Americans aren’t going to give a bleep when he arranges this ultimate flip flop. Nothing sticks to this guy.

AYNBLAND on July 3, 2008 at 5:27 PM

And Hillary is waiting in the wings, circling above, looking for the right time to strike. Maybe one week before the convention? It would appear that Obama is priming the nutroots himself – giving plenty of room to run to Hillary. This may be plan “B” for her, but so far the table is being set. With only 4 days between the conventions, Hillary could suck all the MSM air out of the Republican convention if she turns out to be the nominee. Who cares about McCain – what a come back!

jerseyman on July 3, 2008 at 5:28 PM

This is great. One guy Obama just threw under the bus is my congresscritter, Patrick Murphy, who got himself elected almost exclusively because he promised that he would end the war, co-sponsored Obama’s surrender resolution in 2007, and endorsed Obama entirely because of his previous position on Iraq. I think I can hear his head exploding right now!

rockmom on July 3, 2008 at 5:30 PM

A man who was nominated on the hard left platform has allot of cattle wrangling to do. The Constant Liar is born.

Egfrow on July 3, 2008 at 5:31 PM

Axelrod may think Barry left himself enough wiggle room on this, but there are too many clips of his original, unequivical stand for comparison to the present. Gonna be really hard to finesse this one. McCain needs to go in for the soft underbelly, and hammer him on it before the donk convention. Her Majesty is still floating up there on outstretched wings in the wind currents,..waiting,..waiting, while the superdelegates consult their inner selves and sweat. His switcharoo on this plus the food choices and organic toilet paper at the convention gives me hope of excitement in August.

a capella on July 3, 2008 at 5:31 PM

Simply put, he can’t be trusted.

Let me re-phrase that, inartfully:

He is a lying liar who will say and do anything to get elected, with the endgame being his goal of imposing his neo-marxist ideas on every single one of us.

Buy Danish on July 3, 2008 at 5:31 PM

If you check the libs…he is just making sure his opinion is the correct one. They will rationalize it all. It is the Eddie Murphy syndrome. The MSM will say, “Maybe, he didn’t say that”

tomas on July 3, 2008 at 5:35 PM

And Hillary is waiting in the wings, circling above, looking for the right time to strike.

The imagery here is super creepy.

;-)

Rightwingsparkle on July 3, 2008 at 5:35 PM

upinak on July 3, 2008 at 5:23 PM

Hair ! ! What hair. : )

Texyank on July 3, 2008 at 5:36 PM

Well, despite what the Left believes about their messiah, Mr O, and his party seem to be making allot of conciliations toward the Right of Center views. This has got to really piss his base off to no end! I don’t see McCaine swinging his opinions toward the left as much as Obama postures towards the right, this can be deftlyexploited . (Hint to McCaine Campain!)

Egfrow on July 3, 2008 at 5:36 PM

Really though.Take a look at my theory (scroll down to the end. Seriously. Obama is absolutely convinced that he will win. He really doesn’t see anything keeping him from that.

It may be that talking to Bush made him realize what a fool he would look like once he was President when he had to do the opposite of everything he said.

Am I being too generous here?

Rightwingsparkle on July 3, 2008 at 5:38 PM

“This is not the Iraq I knew”

Les in NC on July 3, 2008 at 5:39 PM

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080703/ap_on_el_pr/obama_iraq

It isn’t even his fault

tomas on July 3, 2008 at 5:41 PM

You people have obviously never heard of “strategic ambiguity.”

The Messiah is a clever Machiavellian.

misterpeasea on July 3, 2008 at 5:43 PM

It may be that talking to Bush made him realize what a fool he would look like once he was President when he had to do the opposite of everything he said.

Am I being too generous here?

Rightwingsparkle on July 3, 2008 at 5:38 PM

Dems (including Obama)don’t care what they look like once in office. Did Bill Clinton care? (I’m going to cut taxes, oops I need to raise them, sorry I raised them too much)Would Hillary? Once they have the presidency for four years, they have to work only to ensure another four years (the Clintons learned that in Arkansas). I don’t know if Obama understands this yet. That is why there is such an effort to retain power (vote to felons, illegal immigrants, etc.), money and entitlements to as many people as possible (for everyone to receives ‘free’ health care who else would they vote for besides Obama or Hillary?)

jerseyman on July 3, 2008 at 5:46 PM

Astonishing…

At this point maybe it’s better to keep track of who Obama hasn’t thrown under the bus.

Lehosh on July 3, 2008 at 5:56 PM

You people have obviously never heard of “strategic ambiguity.”

The Messiah is a clever Machiavellian.

Nope, but I’ve heard of lying. And being a hypocrite.

mjk on July 3, 2008 at 5:56 PM

At this point maybe it’s better to keep track of who Obama hasn’t thrown under the bus.

Me. But he doesn’t actually know me.

mjk on July 3, 2008 at 5:57 PM

Ambiguous? It’s a collapse.–Ed

Bobama’s malleable melt down shows his “refined” implosion serving the shell game on a lazy susan platter. Step right up, folks! That’s right, all the folks, all the times. Get your dope hope from the great Bobama. He aims to please. “Clearance Sale!” You name it, he’s got it. And the price is right; only everything! Follow the BHO Pied Piper into the Labyrinth: Where everything seems possible and nothing is what it seems.

Youth vote: “It’s not fair!”

Bobama: “I ask for so little. Just fear me, love me, do as I say and I will be your slave. It’s only forever, not long at all.”

MCCAIN: For my will is as strong as yours, my kingdom as great… Damn. I can never remember that line. Oh! YOU HAVE NO POWER OVER ME!

maverick muse on July 3, 2008 at 5:58 PM

Is there any position of O! that isn’t ambiguous? I mean, eventually.

jmuchow on July 3, 2008 at 6:01 PM

Of course he thinks he has already won the election. That’s what Axelrod keeps telling him. Hence the “presidential seal” nonsense, the visit to NORAD, the condescending speeches on patriotism and faith.

Pride goeth before a fall.

rockmom on July 3, 2008 at 6:02 PM

“ambiguous”

Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.
- Sun Tzu

MB4 on July 3, 2008 at 6:05 PM

he said no general in Iraq now believes all combat brigades can be removed that rapidly without a sizable lose of stability in Iraq

And always remember if there is any sizable loss of stability in Iraq the rotation of the earth on it’s axis will start to wobble and all Muslim terrorists will slide into America.

MB4 on July 3, 2008 at 6:09 PM

Happy Independence Day to all the Dummies, Kos Kiddies and Zsa Zsas out there. Your “candidate of change” just sold you out.

Del Dolemonte on July 3, 2008 at 6:10 PM

You people have obviously never heard of “strategic ambiguity.”

The Messiah is a clever Machiavellian.

misterpeasea on July 3, 2008 at 5:43 PM

All warfare and politics is based on deception.

Hey, what’s that behind you?
- Sun Tzu’s Nephew

MB4 on July 3, 2008 at 6:13 PM

Flip flopping turning into head spinning

William Amos on July 3, 2008 at 5:13 PM

Amazing, isn’t it? The man is all over the board on everything except the massive government programs he wants to tax the rich to pay for.

Connie on July 3, 2008 at 6:19 PM

I hate when I do that.

Flip flopping turning into head spinning

William Amos on July 3, 2008 at 5:13 PM

Amazing, isn’t it? The man is all over the board on everything except the massive government programs he wants to tax the rich to pay for.

Connie on July 3, 2008 at 6:20 PM

And always remember if there is any sizable loss of stability in Iraq the rotation of the earth on it’s axis will start to wobble and all Muslim terrorists will slide into America.

MB4 on July 3, 2008 at 6:09 PM

Your Messiah sold you out! ROFLMAO!

TheBigOldDog on July 3, 2008 at 6:27 PM

Obama is trying to reach the Oval Office but will end up in The Wiggle Room, instead.

profitsbeard on July 3, 2008 at 6:40 PM

Your Messiah sold you out! ROFLMAO!

TheBigOldDog on July 3, 2008 at 6:27 PM

Just for a little bit, long enough to create some pain twinges, but not enough to settle in. He’s now back in the saddle headed the other direction for a couple of hours. I’m betting this holds till after dinner.

a capella on July 3, 2008 at 6:46 PM

It may be that talking to Bush made him realize what a fool he would look like once he was President when he had to do the opposite of everything he said.
Am I being too generous here?
Rightwingsparkle on July 3, 2008 at 5:38 PM

In a word, yes. Two words explain it: political expediency. When things were going bad, blame Bush and the Iraqis (including whatever genocide may follow) and get the heck out. When things are going better, a lightbulb moment: “Hey, I can take credit for this!” If (God forbid) things turn sour again before the election, he’ll change his policy yet again.

To paraphrase Gore, “there’s no controlling moral authority” in the mind of Barack Obama.

Nichevo on July 3, 2008 at 6:47 PM

Obama would consult with generals on the ground in Iraq for their opinion.

Obama has decided that he should listen to the generals before setting the strategic goals

Heavens to Murgatroyd!

Jumpin Jehosaphat!

He didn’t say he would keep large numbers of troops in Iraq as long as the “go longest” General may want. He said he would consult and listen to them.

MB4 on July 3, 2008 at 6:49 PM

6 yes count-em 6 Obama threads on the left side of this
HotAir site.

I’m gonna throw up again. . . .

Texyank on July 3, 2008 at 5:22 PM

One of these days, let’s have an Obama-free day on HA – unless, of course, he happens to say something really, really stupid.
Oh…wait…that won’t work.

whitetop on July 3, 2008 at 7:15 PM

I will not be voting for Obama but I give him some credit for FINALLY coming around to the facts. This is better than being glued to defeat. I’d rather he said this now and it shows some guts politically even though I don’t agree with almost any of this guys policies.

ikez78 on July 3, 2008 at 7:32 PM

It is my strategic assessment that we have to provide a time table to the Iraqi government.

If only he hadn’t retracted this, because now my point is moot, as he’s now indicating he wants the Generals to do the assessing.

Unfortunate, because I would have been very interested in learning more about his mysterious assessment process. Claiming to have assessed a situation implies to me that a bloke has formulated some hypotheses and tested them out here and there against reliable reports and measurements of the situation, etc. Exactly what was Senator Obama’s assessment process? I suspect it was hanging out in Ayer’s living room, smokin’ a cigarette, and dreamin’ about the age of Aquarius!

jeff_from_mpls on July 3, 2008 at 7:38 PM

I can almost see Murtha, Pelosi, Durbin, Reid, etc. doing a gang hand wring over how to support their Messiah and still blame Bush. What a nice way to start a 4 day weekend. :)

Patrick S on July 3, 2008 at 8:06 PM

I don’t see where this makes anyone vote differently, though.

exhelodrvr on July 3, 2008 at 10:42 PM

1ke,
” I give him some credit for FINALLY coming around to the facts. This is better than being glued to defeat.”

The problem with that is that you have to assume that he honestly believed in his earlier positions. Personally, I think he was just saying (and still is just saying) whatever is best for him politically, at that particular moment.

exhelodrvr on July 3, 2008 at 10:45 PM

He says one thing in North Dakota and another in San Fransiko. For there against here.

Maybe he’s too dumb to figure out stuff gets reported or maybe he knows most people barely pay attention so will go with what they heard when he was in their state

And why in the hell is he looking off and up in every photo?

Is this what Obamessiahs, savior of all living and a few million dead voters do look off into the heavans?

dhunter on July 3, 2008 at 10:53 PM

this will eventually get to a beauty contest betwixt the two candidates. With a bear hug on policy, it gets down to who panders best to the bottom of the electoral pyramid.

JAW on July 3, 2008 at 11:18 PM

Ya know, that “JUDGEMENT TO LEAD” sign needes a little modification.
Need to add a word: JUDGEMENT TURNS TO LEAD”
As in that stuff they make fishin’ weights out of.

eeyore on July 4, 2008 at 12:39 AM

It has been my long held position that Hillary would be the next Nixon as regards the war. OK, excuse me while I flop, I mean Obama. The surprise for me is that it is occurring during the campaign season. One would have thought he would wait until he was in office, review the material that he would say he never had access to, and make the appropriate changes. It would be an easy transition.

Let us not forget that the Dems are quite the chest thumpers themselves. Who can forget the rousing speeches to action vs Serbia whilst telling the UN to kiss off. Never have the halls of Congress rang so loud in huffs and puffs about what they were going to do with Saddam until, sadly, surprisingly Bush got elected. Even then their high fiving didn’t end until an actual war looked possible under his leadership, not theirs.

Hello Darfur.

The good news, if Obama gets elected we will finally see, every night on the MSM tube, good news about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and wherever at least for a couple of years.

So in hindsight the only surprise is Obama is ahead of schedule.

Now if only McCain had a competent campaign crew….

patrick neid on July 5, 2008 at 2:44 AM