Saturday, August 02, 2008


If there is one word that defines Barack Obama's campaign, it's not the noun "change" but the adjective "careful," which he adds to essentially the same policy as John McCain's: "As I’ve said many times, we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in" (Barack Obama, "My Plan for Iraq," New York Times, 14 July 2008)1; and "we have to compromise in terms of a careful, well thought-out drilling strategy that was carefully circumscribed to avoid significant environmental damage" (David Lightman, "In Major Change, Obama Says He'll Support Offshore Drilling," McClatchy Newspapers, 1 August 2008).

1  In fine print:
  • "Senator Barack Obama said Thursday that he might 'refine' his plans for a phased withdrawal from Iraq after meeting with military commanders there later this summer" (Michael Cooper and Jeff Zeleny, "Obama Strives to Retain Some Flexibility on His Iraq Policy," New York Times, 3 July 2008).

  • So far, he has offered nothing more concrete than this: "We must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in."

    Obama's advisers have been more forthcoming. Samantha Power, before she resigned from the campaign for making an indiscreet remark about Hillary Clinton, told the BBC, "He will, of course, not rely upon some plan that he’s crafted as a Presidential candidate or a U.S. senator. He will rely upon a plan -- an operational plan -- that he pulls together in consultation with people who are on the ground." Last month, the Center for a New American Security, which has become something like Obama’s foreign-policy think tank, released a report that argued against a timetable for withdrawal, regardless of the state of the war, and in favor of "conditional engagement," declaring, "Under this strategy, the United States would not withdraw its forces based on a firm unilateral schedule. Rather, the time horizon for redeployment would be negotiated with the Iraqi government and nested within a more assertive approach to regional diplomacy. The United States would make it clear that Iraq and America share a common interest in achieving sustainable stability in Iraq, and that the United States is willing to help support the Iraqi government and build its security and governance capacity over the long term, but only so long as Iraqis continue to make meaningful political progress." It's impossible to know if this persuasive document mirrors Obama’s current thinking, but here’s a clue: it was co-written by one of his Iraq advisers, Colin Kahl. (George Packer, "Obama's Iraq Problem," The New Yorker, 10 July 2008)

No comments: