Friday, February 08, 2008

A Couple Questions for Senator Obama

updated 2/10/2008: Senator Obama responds
updated 2/16/2008: two more from Obama's campaign, also Michael Totten on Obama vs Olmert

project that Senator Barack Obama will be the Democrat's nominee for the Presidential race. I also think, but I am not as certain, that he'll beat McCain in the election, too. So I am understandably worried about his plans for handling Iraq in his presidency.

Sen. Obama's plan, as contained here, is basically to remove all combat troops from Iraq at a rate of one to two brigades per month, commencing immediately, and completed in about 16 months. This would be coupled with intense "regional diplomacy" with Iraq's neighbors including Iran and Syria, a new constitutional convention, and continued strikes against al Qaeda in Iraq.

These plans concern me. I have a few specific questions for Sen. Obama that I'm particularly interested in finding answers to. I thought I'd pop over to his website and ask him in his "Answer Center":

I have read Sen. Obama's plan for Iraq as presented on this site and have a few questions.

1) Sen. Obama's plan calls for removing all combat troops from Iraq at a rate of one to two brigades per month, commencing immediately, and completed in about 16 months. How does Sen. Obama plan to support the Iraqi parliamentary elections planned for the end of 2009? Does he anticipate that a strong US military presence will not be required to assist the elections? Does he plan to replace US forces with a regional or international security force to protect the elections? Or is he unconcerned with the security environment surrounding the elections? What other non-military support does he plan to offer the 2009 Iraqi elections, if any?

2) The Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army are making great strides in their capability to secure their country, aided by the "Concerned Local Citizens" and tribal "Awakening" movements (now "Sons of Iraq"). This will surely continue if the Government of Iraq makes good on its promises to integrate the "Sons of Iraq" into the regular security forces. However, their armor, artillery, and support capabilities are somewhat behind. More importantly, reconstruction of their air force is barely underway and a strong and self-sufficient air force is many years away. Does Sen. Obama plan to continue to have US air power available to support operations within Iraq following the 16-month withdrawal of combat troops? If so, will the level of air support be more, less, or the same compared to now? And if US air power remains available, where would they be based? How would Sen. Obama ensure that US air power is used to engage appropriate targets?

Thank you for your consideration of these questions.

Oops! I forgot one. One more time:

I have read Sen. Obama's plan for Iraq as presented on this site and have an additional question.

1) On page 4 of Sen. Obama's plan, it says, "Obama would supply armed escorts to civilians who voluntarily choose to move from religiously heterogeneous areas to communities where they feel they will be more secure." What does that mean? Would these be American combat troops? If so, would this offer be extended only during the sixteen months they are present in Iraq following Sen. Obama's inauguration?

Thank you for your consideration of this question.

I'll update this if I happen to get a response. Does anybody else have the answers to these questions? Any other specific concerns he should address regarding Iraq?

Personally, I really hope he fudges his plans as soon as he gets the nomination and a better plan emerges from him, but we'll see.

update 2/10/2008:

I received the following from Senator Obama:

Friend --

Make a matching donationWe just learned that we won all three contests today -- in Louisiana, Nebraska, and Washington State.

We've now won 18 out of 28 states, with New Mexico still in the balance.

What's more, we also estimate that we at least doubled our delegate lead today.

Our momentum is strong, but another round of tough contests is about to begin.

Tomorrow, Democrats will caucus in Maine. And on Tuesday, Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia will have their turn.

To win, we need to bring as many people into the process as possible. We're pushing towards 500,000 donors this year by March 4th, when Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont vote.

Now is the time to make your first online donation of $50 -- if you do, it will be matched by another supporter, doubling your impact:

This race is still extremely close, and we need your support to remain competitive.

Thank you for making this possible.




update 2/16/2008:

I've received two more emails from the Obama campaign. One was another plea for contributions following last Tuesday's wins, and the other was about 'Superdelegates' and what I can do to make sure they back Obama. Obviously, submitting a question to him just added my email to their database. I don't expect an answer- a) I don't think there is one, and b) I suspect there's no time or interest in answering questions like mine, at least not now.

It's very interesting from the comments that many people think (and 'hope') that Barack will 'change' his stance after he's nominated and continued progress in Iraq will be harder and harder to ignore as the election nears. McCain will bury him in the debates on this subject but it won't matter much in the end.

Anyway, here's Michael Totten comparing Obama's plans for Iraq to Olmert's strategy in Lebanon in the Summer of '06:

Responsible political leaders and military commanders would be well-advised to analyze both approaches to assymetrical warfare and counterinsurgency, and to hew as closely as possible to the Petraeus model. Olmert’s is broken.

Senator Barack Obama, though, prefers the Olmert model whether he thinks of it that way or not. (Actually, I’m sure he doesn’t think of it as Olmert’s model, though basically that’s what it is.)

Totten reaches a similar conclusion to many of the commenters here and also 'hopes' that Obama will 'change' his position after getting the nomination:

Obama is competing in a Democratic primary race. Perhaps if he is elected commander in chief and no longer needs to appease the left-wing of his party he will reverse himself and keep Petraeus right where he is. Reality has a way of imposing itself on presidents.

I wonder: does anybody know of his fallback quote, the one where he loosely allows some wiggle room in his Iraq policy to which he can refer back to, like "I've been saying since Sep '07 (or whenever) that I'd be willing to re-think the way forward in Iraq"... or something like that?

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