Whatever nuance Barack Obama is now adding to his Iraq withdrawal strategy, the core plan on his Web site is as plain as day: Obama would “immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. He will remove one to two combat brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months.”
ABC spent some time with the professionals to ask if it could be done. The answer was just barely. If things stayed quiet and you left enough equipment behind.
It is the equipment that is the real problem. In the kind of redeployment that Anderson is talking about, the troops head home, but much of their equipment stays behind. Two combat brigades means up to 1,200 humvees in addition to thousands of other pieces of equipment, like trucks, fuelers, tankers and helicopters.
And 90 percent of the equipment would have to be moved by ground through the Iraqi war zone, to the port in Kuwait, where it must all be cleaned and inspected and prepared for shipment. This is a place with frequent dust storms, limited port facilities and limited numbers of wash racks.
While Anderson and his troops have a positive attitude, several commanders who looked at the Obama plan told ABC News, on background, that there was “no way” it could work logistically.
The Candidate will probably pivot on this issue as well; but the sheer physical impracticability of his plans means his staff didn’t do their homework well. Don’t we all laugh when Bruno Ganz, playing Hitler in the movie Downfall, gives orders for attacks by nonexistent armies and instructs his commanders to perform impossible evolutions? Obama is no Hitler, but he is running for the position of Commander in Chief and it is somewhat embarrassing for him not only to have promised — but to have run for office on the basis of an order of doubtful feasibility. Then what happens if, as is possible, trouble starts in the middle of a withdrawal with these thousands of vehicles on the road?
Of course Obama was not alone in demanding this. An entire ideological movement has made the logistically impossible the cornerstone of their political platform, some even suggesting that troops be pulled back as far as Okinawa. Since neither Obama nor all of his followers can be considered stupid the reason for these impossible demands must be that they either have not given the matter serious thought or simply engaging in an “I want” moment, where you don’t care about feasibility. You simply demand that something take place: I want world peace, I want a world without military expenditures, I want guaranteed health care and I want Jerusalem to be the capital of a united Israel and Palestine. The danger with the slogan “yes we can” is that sometime you can’t.
During the Vietnam War there was a lot of talk about the “limits of American power”; and I’ve always wondered whether this was subject to the same constraints that govern the limits of liberal fantasy.