To be blunt, Senator Obama's Iraq policy has been in need of such an update for some time.
For instance, check out his campaign website's discussion of Iraq:
Senator Obama introduced legislation in January 2007 to offer a responsible alternative to President Bush's failed escalation policy. The legislation commences redeployment of U.S. forces no later than May 1, 2007 with the goal of removing all combat brigades from Iraq by March 31, 2008 -- a date consistent with the bipartisan Iraq Study Group's expectations. The plan allows for a limited number of U.S. troops to remain in Iraq as basic force protection, to engage in counter-terrorism and to continue the training of Iraqi security forces. If the Iraqis are successful in meeting the 13 benchmarks for progress laid out by the Bush Administration, this plan also allows for the temporary suspension of the redeployment, provided Congress agrees that the benchmarks have been met.
Correction: His legislation would have commenced redeployment by May 1. That was over FOUR months ago.
Obama has lost almost all of his edge on the Iraq issue. Check out the coverage of the Univision debate last night:
"I'll strongly support in the coming days efforts here to terminate that participation based on firm deadlines," said Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd in the debate, which was broadcast on Univision, the nation's largest Spanish-language network.
Anchors Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas posed questions in Spanish and the candidates had earpieces to hear simultaneous translations into English. The candidates' responses were simultaneously translated into Spanish for broadcast.
Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards said he is concerned the Petraeus report "will be basically a sales job by the White House, that it'll be a PR document." He said Congress should use its power to fund the war to insist on a withdrawal timetable.
Hillary Rodham Clinton said nothing in the report will change the basic problem that there is no military solution in Iraq. "We need to quit refereeing their civil war and bring our troops home as soon as possible," she said.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson retorted that Clinton and others who want to leave residual forces in Iraq would leave soldiers at risk.
"I'd bring them all home within six to eight months," Richardson said. "There is a basic difference between all of us here ... This is a fundamental issue."
Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich was loudly applauded for saying he would pull troops out of Iraq immediately. Illinois Sen. Barack Obama aligned himself with Kucinich.
"I was a strong opponent of the war, as Dennis was," Obama said, adding that President Bush is trying to make it appear that the 35,000 troop surge earlier this year has had an impact.
"What Kunicich says" is not a way to separate oneself from the pack. The dynamic has been that Obama is part of the pack, along with Hillary and Edwards, and with only people like Richardson and Joe Biden separating themselves, for good or ill.
So, as a strong (though currently frustrated) supporter of Senator Obama, I was heartened to see this story out of Iowa.
Presidential hopeful Barack Obama plans to make a major policy speech on Iraq . . . [t]he speech is planned for after Gen. David Patraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker give their much-anticipated progress report to Congress about the surge in Iraq.
The address on Iraq, the official said, will include new policy proposals on troop withdrawals, diplomacy in Iraq and the region and ideas about what to do about the humanitarian crisis in Iraq. He’ll also talk about his ideas for U.S. leadership in the region after the war, the official said.
Here's what I will be looking for:
- What does he say should be done NOW, not in 2009, to start bringing troops home. Just saying "they need to come home" is a platitude, not a plan.
- What will his reaction be to the Petraeus and Crocker testimony? How will he challenge the sell-job conducted by the administration?
- How will his policy proposals differ from his legislation? His legislation was about withdrawing troops under Bush, not necessarily what he would do himself. Also, we should look for specificity and commitments. An encouraging sign about there being a lot of meat and potatoes, as opposed to garnishment, is this:
Obama will be accompanied on this trip by Zbigniew Brezezinski, the national security adviser for Jimmy Carter. Brezezinski announced his support for Obama last month.
Zbiggy is not a dealer in fluff and superficiality.
- How will he use this to separate himself on a forward-looking basis from other candidates? Everyone knows he got it right from the beginning, but now he has to show his superior judgment all over again. Especially important is drawing a clear distinction between himself and Hillary. Will he do this? My guess would be yes, based on some curious geography:
Presidential hopeful Barack Obama plans to make a major policy speech on Iraq when he comes to Clinton, Iowa, Wednesday, a Democratic official who’s familiar with the campaign’s plans said Sunday.
Part of me just can't believe this is a coincidence.
Anyhow, that's the scorecard by which I'll be grading his speech on Wednesday. Others can feel free to use their own curves, of course. Feel free to add your thoughts.
UPDATED: Obama reacts to Petraeus's testimony
Changing the definition of success to stay the course with the wrong policy is the wrong course for our troops and our national security. The time to end the surge and to start bringing our troops home is now – not six months from now. The Iraqi government is not achieving the political progress that was the stated purpose of the surge, and in key areas has gone backwards. Our military cannot sustain its current deployments without crippling our ability to respond to contingencies around the world. It’s time for a change of direction that brings our troops home, applies real pressure on the Iraqis to act, surges our diplomacy, and addresses Iraq’s urgent humanitarian crisis. I can only support a policy that begins an immediate removal of our troops from Iraq’s civil war, and initiates a sustained drawdown of our military presence.
Some good stuff, some curious stuff ("sustained drawdown?").
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