Barack Obamaâ€™s early campaign was fueled, in part, by his opposition to the war in Iraq. Now, as president, he looks ready to live up to his promise to remove our troops from the nation we invaded almost six years ago.
Obama’s plan would pull out all combat troops 19 months after his inauguration, although he had promised repeatedly during the 2008 campaign that he would withdraw them 16 months after taking office. That schedule, based on removing roughly one brigade a month, was predicated on commanders determining that it would not endanger U.S. troops left behind or Iraq’s fragile security.
Really, I donâ€™ t think Obama can be criticized by anti-war folk because heâ€™s added three months onto his initial pledge. In fact, given that he now has access to information he lacked during the campaign, Iâ€™m surprised his withdrawal plan is so close to what he promised. I donâ€™t know if this means the majority of commanders are in agreement that we can safely leave or if this means Obama is determined to follow through with removal of our troops, no matter the consequences.
I have always tried to view the Iraq situation in the present tense, looking at the situation as it is now and not as it was when we invaded or how I ardently wish it might be in the future. For a long time, I opposed withdrawal because I found the idea too reckless, more likely to cause greater turmoil than to bring any semblance of lasting peace. But with the success of the surge and other anti-insurgent policies (both American and Iraqi), we may have reached a point where the drawdown of our forces will not threaten Iraqâ€™s or the greater regionâ€™s stability.
Once the redeployment of combat troops begins, we will get a better sense whether or not their absence is causing more problems than itâ€™s solving. I hope to God we can get our men and women out of there without setting off another crisis. President Obama makes a good case that he knows what he is doing. I just hope he keeps a steady hand on the situation.