On the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, Barack Obama stood in front of a hand-picked audience in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and lied to them.
“Fighting a war without end will not make the American people safer,” Obama told an audience of veterans, military family members, and local officials at Fayetteville Technical Community College. “When I am commander-in-chief, I will set a new goal on Day One: I will end this war … because it is the right thing to do for our national security and it will ultimately make us safer.”
So how would he get us out of Iraq?
Obama proposed pulling one or two combat brigades from Iraq each month, making a complete withdrawal –- enough troops would remain to guard the U.S. embassy and to provide a counter-terrorism strike force –- possible within 16 months.
Unless he hides powers even more messianic than his followers give him credit for, Barack Obama does not have the power to end the Iraq War. What he may have the power to do, if elected, is implement plans to withdraw American military forces from Iraq.
Perhaps for some in the United States this would be considered “ending the war.” For the Iraqis and other citizens of the region, however, the abandonment of Iraq by Barack Obama would likely be viewed in much darker terms, as an event that may trigger a far more bloody regional war.
Obama’s stated plan — indeed, a plan he reiterated in Fayetteville — is to begin an immediate withdrawal of American forces from Iraq once he becomes president, at a rate of one to two brigades (up to 5,000 personnel per brigade) per month, for a complete withdrawal in 16 months.
But that rate of withdrawal is not possible.
Maj. Gen. Michael Diamond, deputy director of the logistics directorate at U.S. Central Command, stated in 2007 that it would take two years “to do it right” and bring about an orderly withdrawal from Iraq. A withdrawal of American forces from Kuwait after the 1991 Gulf War took 18 months, a feat that required moving three times as many men, but moving them a much shorter distance and through non-hostile territory. A headlong withdrawal from Iraq is unlikely to be peaceful as the security situation diminishes as a result of the pace Obama promises.
Samantha Power, who was an Obama insider and foreign policy advisor until recently calling Hillary Clinton a “monster” and stepping down from the campaign, admitted during an interview on the BBC TV show Hardtalk that Obama’s 16-month withdrawal timetable isn’t really a commitment, but just a “best-case scenario,” “crafted as a presidential candidate.”
Removing American combat forces and their equipment, shutting down American bases in an orderly manner, and removing tons of military-generated toxic waste created by the conflict will take 20 months or longer.
Barack Obama cannot honor his stated commitment to withdraw all American combat units within 16 months without instituting a disorderly retreat that leaves behind billions of dollars of equipment purchased by the American taxpayer, toxic waste, and a gaping security vacuum that will lead to a far higher loss of innocent civilian lives.
That the Iraqi government and the governments of bordering nations also recommend against a forced retreat and may be drawn into a regional conflict in order to protect their own national interests seems to have fallen upon deaf ears in the Obama campaign, which cares far more about manufacturing a foreign policy position based on domestic political consumption than pragmatic realities in the region.
No reputable expert, allied nation, or regional partner backs such a headlong retreat as the Obama campaign continually promises.
Obama cannot honor his commitment.
Barack Obama’s pledge to withdraw from Iraq in just 16 months after taking office if elected is unsustainable rhetoric — “just words.”
Bob Owens blogs at Confederate Yankee.