Say Anything wonders why he didn’t wait until after his trip to deliver it, but why go through the charade? Eleven percent of Democrats and 19 percent of independents already think he’s “abandoning voters that got him nominated” on Iraq. He’s not going to push them any further, no matter what Petraeus tells him. So here’s the speech, packed top to bottom with familiar Obama foreign policy boilerplate — and a notable exception or two — designed to assure the left that he’s still the same old Barry they know and marginally prefer to Hillary. The requisite lip service to the surge is duly paid, minus any acknowledgment that not only was he wrong about it but, per Hitchens’s conclusion to yesterday’s Slate piece, his own policy might have broken the country irretrievably:
It has been 18 months since President Bush announced the surge. As I have said many times, our troops have performed brilliantly in lowering the level of violence. General Petraeus has used new tactics to protect the Iraqi population. We have talked directly to Sunni tribes that used to be hostile to America, and supported their fight against al Qaeda. Shiite militias have generally respected a cease-fire. Those are the facts, and all Americans welcome them.
It speaks volumes that he felt obliged to include that last line. Absent from the rest of the Iraq passage is the language tying troop levels to “stability” that made his remarks about refining his plan a few weeks ago so tantalizing; in its place he’s added a few lines about the progress of Iraqi security forces, which I guess is acting here as a proxy for “stability.” He expects them to be ready by 2009, which should give him plenty of time to implement his logistically impossible 16-month withdrawal plan.
As for Iran, what’s missing from the following?
We cannot tolerate nuclear weapons in the hands of nations that support terror. Preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons is a vital national security interest of the United States. No tool of statecraft should be taken off the table, but Senator McCain would continue a failed policy that has seen Iran strengthen its position, advance its nuclear program, and stockpile 150 kilos of low enriched uranium. I will use all elements of American power to pressure the Iranian regime, starting with aggressive, principled and direct diplomacy – diplomacy backed with strong sanctions and without preconditions.
There will be careful preparation. I commend the work of our European allies on this important matter, and we should be full partners in that effort. Ultimately the measure of any effort is whether it leads to a change in Iranian behavior. That’s why we must pursue these tough negotiations in full coordination with our allies, bringing to bear our full influence – including, if it will advance our interests, my meeting with the appropriate Iranian leader at a time and place of my choosing.
We will pursue this diplomacy with no illusions about the Iranian regime. Instead, we will present a clear choice. If you abandon your nuclear program, support for terror, and threats to Israel, there will be meaningful incentives. If you refuse, then we will ratchet up the pressure, with stronger unilateral sanctions; stronger multilateral sanctions in the Security Council, and sustained action outside the UN to isolate the Iranian regime. That’s the diplomacy we need. And the Iranians should negotiate now; by waiting, they will only face mounting pressure.
My knock on him all along on Iran has been (a) that he has no plan B in case negotiations fail since the left implicitly is prepared to let Iran have the bomb, and (b) that the only real difference between his approach and Bush’s is that he thinks giving Iran a personal audience with His Messianic Awesomeness is somehow going to change their minds. Tell me, based on this, how I’m wrong. If the part about not being able to tolerate nukes in the hands of terrorist states is significant, then why isn’t it reinforced with a specific threat to attack if negotiations don’t work out? Read the speech and you’ll see he has no qualms about threatening to go into Pakistan if we spot Osama on the radar screen — another Bush policy, as it turns out, and one that Pakistan has evidently already agreed to.
There’s more, including Obama ever so ironically chastising McCain for maintaining his posture on troop levels irrespective of the security situation, but it doesn’t take long to read so pick through it. I want to end with a question I asked yesterday, though, since it’s important and it’s getting short shrift. What should we make of the fact that Obama’s promising to send two more combat brigades to Afghanistan even though, both anecdotally and statistically, support on the left for the war there is drying up? If there are any objections to his plan among the nutroots, I haven’t seen them. In which case, who’s the liar here? Is it the left, willing to go along in the interests of the election to help sell Obama as a hawk to independents, or is it Obama himself, falsely promising to deploy troops for the same reason even though he secretly doesn’t intend to? I’m willing to take him at his word in this case but I wonder how he plans to deal with the left once he’s in office and finds they’re not nearly as gung ho for the big Afghan push as he is. Or does he think, a la Iran, that through sheer charisma he can pull them back on board?
Update: Joementum’s quest for Bush-like approval ratings among the left continues:
“Sen. Obama said this morning that he wants a foreign policy that is tough, smart and principled,” said Lieberman. “This afternoon I want to ask my colleague who I respect and like a couple of direct questions: Was it tough when Sen. Obama voted to order U.S. troops to retreat from Iraq on a fixed timeline regardless of the recommendations of our military commanders or conditions on the ground? Was it smart when Sen. Obama opposed the surge and predicted that it would fail to improve our security? … Was it tough and principled when Sen. Obama said he would be open to changing his plan on Iraq after going there and talking to General Petraeus, which I think was the right position, only to change that position hours later after being heatedly criticized by organizations like MoveOn.org? I say respectfully the answer to all those questions is, no.”