Thursday, December 08, 2005

Obama: Iraq Policy Must Be Balanced

As the latest move in my ongoing effort to make this blog the exclusive province of news about Barack Obama, here is the Peoria Journal Star's account if its editorial board's meeting with Sen. Obama:
[T]he Illinois Democrat said there are two dynamics in play that need to be balanced. America's presence there attracts insurgents, he said, but without the U.S. military's help, the resulting chaos could also cause more insurgents to relocate to the area.

"We have this tricky job of making sure we have enough presence there to maintain order as the Iraqis are trained," he said, "but that we send strong signals to the Iraqi political community that we want to hand over our responsibility for dealing with the insurgency."

Obama also reiterated his opposition to a complete and immediate withdrawal of military troops as some liberal groups have called for, but said the United States should begin formulating a strategy where withdrawal would take place in phases after next week's Iraqi parliamentary elections.

"Iraqis have to step up and take control of their own country and I don't think we can be there in perpetuity," he said.

Obama also said America should adhere to the outcome of the election, even if it's adverse to what the Bush administration is hoping for.

Obama leaves for his first trip to Iraq on Jan. 4. The 10-day journey will also include stops in Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan and Israel.

The freshman senator said he's hoping the first-hand experience will help him separate the truth from the spin in the vast amount of information being thrown about regarding the Iraq war.

"There are times when you feel like you're getting a (public relations) power point presentation and you just have an instinct this is not good, solid information," Obama said about occasional private briefs presented to senators by military officials. "There are times, on the other hand, where the people who come in give you information that sounds accurate and measured and is sufficiently complex where you say, OK, this makes sense."
Kudos to the PJStar for recognizing that the disconnect within the Democratic party is between Democratic elected officials who want something less than a full and immediate pull out and "some liberal groups" who want every American soldier out of Iraq tomorrow.

There actually isn't much of a difference in the positions of most Democrats in Congress. Among D.C. Dems, the distinctions are primarily ones of emphasis.

UPDATE -- Apparently Sen. Obama is talking to every editorial board in the state about Iraq. Here is The State Journal-Register account their meeting:
Obama, who opposed U.S. entry into Iraq, said he deliberately has avoided calling for an immediate withdrawal of the troops.

"I think that this is one of those situations where having, I think, made big blunders going in, it's important for us not to make big blunders coming out," he said.

Even so, he favors starting "a phased withdrawal process" of troops next year. The process would be based on what happens with the elections, he said.

"What we're engaged in is a difficult balancing act here," he said.

"Having gone in, how do we step back but ensure that there's not such a vacuum that either chaos occurs or jhihadists take over critical areas that can make huge problems elsewhere? The irony, of course, is that there really wasn't a terrorist problem before we went in. There is now."

Obama acknowledged that U.S. involvement in Iraq could reach "the point of diminishing returns."

"There may be a point in time in which you just say, we've gone as far as we can go on this policy," he said. "This problem cannot be solved. That's a hard assessment to make."

Still, he added, the United States could help broker agreements among the various factions in Iraq "so they at least are not at each other's throats."
And if there is just one thing that American politicians can teach the world, it is how to keep from being "at each other's throats."

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