“I was a little puzzled by the frenzy that I set off by what I thought was a pretty innocuous statement,” the expected Democratic presidential nominee told reporters flying with him to Missouri from Montana. “I am absolutely committed to ending the war.”…
“What’s important is to understand the difference between strategy and tactics,” he told reporters. “The tactics of how we ensure our troops are safe as we pull out, how we execute the withdrawal, those are things that are all based on facts and conditions. I am not somebody — unlike George Bush — who is willing to ignore facts on the basis of my preconceived notions.”
Noting that “we want to build on” the lessening of violence in Iraq, he added: “It doesn’t change my strategic view that we have to bring our occupation to a close.”…
“I was surprised by how finely calibrated every single word was measured,” Obama said. “I wasn’t saying anything that I hadn’t said before.”
That last bit, feigning shock that people are paying close attention to what the Democratic nominee says about the signature foreign policy issue of the campaign, must be the most precious bit of shinola to escape his lips since his rousing refusal to disown Wright a few weeks before he disowned him. But note the boldfaced part echoing what he said on Thursday about tying withdrawal to Iraq’s stability. The nutroots line over the past two days is the same as Obama’s, that what he said isn’t a jot different from what he’s been saying all along and any assertions to the contrary are McCain camp propaganda. In that case, meet McCain camp propagandist Tom Hayden, fretting at HuffPo over what Obama’s recent comments portend for escalation. Or revisit Michael Crowley’s post at TNR, calling the stability bit “a pretty significant new principle” — and having written this long recent analysis of Obama’s Iraq rhetoric, Crowley would know. Or just compare his new emphasis on stability to the statement on withdrawal at his website, which is not only unqualified but clearly imagines no reason for keeping troops in the country except (a) as a token force to protect U.S. diplomats, and (b) to target Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda only.
Beyond that, are Obama and the left really so naive as to think that vague platitudes about being as careful getting out as we were careless getting in register vividly enough with the public as to save him from the perception now that he’s tacking right? McCain’s been on record for more than two years as saying that the military option is the very last option when dealing with Iran. Even so, if he came out tomorrow in the heat of the campaign and noted that he was “refining his plan” in a way that hinted at greater diplomacy, don’t you think it would be news, his earlier platitude notwithstanding?
Here’s my favorite part, from CNN’s account of today’s comments:
“The belief that we have a national security interest in making sure Iraq is secure, I’ve been saying consistently,” he added. Noting “the worst-case scenarios and the parade of horribles that has been trotted out by John McCain and others about genocide if we left,” he said he has always reserved “the right to protect people from genocide.”
Associated Press, July 20, 2007: “Obama: Don’t stay in Iraq over genocide.”
Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Thursday the United States cannot use its military to solve humanitarian problems and that preventing a potential genocide in Iraq isn’t a good enough reason to keep U.S. forces there.
“Well, look, if that’s the criteria by which we are making decisions on the deployment of U.S. forces, then by that argument you would have 300,000 troops in the Congo right now — where millions have been slaughtered as a consequence of ethnic strife — which we haven’t done,” Obama said in an interview with The Associated Press…
“Nobody is proposing we leave precipitously. There are still going to be U.S. forces in the region that could intercede, with an international force, on an emergency basis,” Obama said between stops on the first of two days scheduled on the New Hampshire campaign trail. “There’s no doubt there are risks of increased bloodshed in Iraq without a continuing U.S. presence there.”
In this as in so much else, there’s no real difference between him and Hillary. “Precipitously,” of course, means “sooner than 16 months,” the timeline he’s been pitching all along; there’s a hint here that he might suspend withdrawal to deal with an “emergency” (or actually re-invade the country with some phantom international force after an ill-conceived pullout has been completed), but of course Iraq’s not in a state of emergency at the moment — in which case, what gives with the “stability” rhetoric on Thursday? If anything, the fact that things are going well should accelerate his timeline for withdrawal, not make him want to linger to “build on” the security gains. Isn’t he really just embracing the logic — albeit certainly not the time horizon — of McCain’s “100 years” comment? He’s willing to consider keeping more troops in the field or slowing the pace of withdrawal precisely because there’s not an emergency anymore. Which is actually bad news for McCain politically, because once he and Obama agree on that, the only variable left to negotiate is how long troops should be kept in that non-emergency occupation role. Maverick’s opened the bidding at a century. In terms of drawing voters, Obama shouldn’t find that tough to beat.