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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Obama takes a stand?

posted by Aziz P. at Tuesday, January 30, 2007 permalink View blog reactions
Well, I wanted Obama to take a principled stand on the big issues of the day. He already committed himself to universal health care. Now he's drawing an unambigous line on Iraq:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today introduced binding and comprehensive legislation that not only reverses the President’s dangerous and ill-conceived escalation of the Iraq war, but also sets a new course for U.S. policy that can bring a responsible end to the war and bring our troops home.

“Our troops have performed brilliantly in Iraq, but no amount of American soldiers can solve the political differences at the heart of somebody else’s civil war,” Obama said. “That’s why I have introduced a plan to not only stop the escalation of this war, but begin a phased redeployment that can pressure the Iraqis to finally reach a political settlement and reduce the violence.”

The Obama plan offers a responsible yet effective alternative to the President's failed policy of escalation. Realizing there can be no military solution in Iraq, it focuses instead on reaching a political solution in Iraq, protecting our interests in the region, and bringing this war to a responsible end. The legislation commences redeployment of U.S. forces no later than May 1, 2007 with the goal of removing all combat brigades from Iraq by March 31, 2008, a date that is consistent with the expectation of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.

Impressive. This puts him well ahead of the presidential pack, even Edwards has to play catch-up. Feingold is also introducing legislation for withdrawal in six months, but that's really too short a timescale and he's not running for President anyway. So this plan by Obama is the first serious policy proposal on Iraq that we have seen.

For what it's worth, and I know I am in a distinct minority, I find the Edwards plan to be more acceptable; I think we will need a significant troop presence in Iraq for decades to come, because we have a moral duty to protect what fledgling sprigs of liberty we've inexpertly planted. In this I disagree with Kos's view that Edwards' proposal is a half-measure.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum is not impressed. Here's the details of Obama plan, with the part that Kevin objects to in bold:

Stops the Escalation: Caps the number of U.S. troops in Iraq at the number in Iraq on January 10, 2007. This does not affect the funding for our troops in Iraq. This cap has the force of law and could not be lifted without explicit Congressional authorization.

De-escalates the War with Phased Redeployment: Commences a phased redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq not later than May 1, 2007, with the goal that all combat brigades redeploy from Iraq by March 31, 2008, a date consistent with the expectation of the Iraq Study Group. This redeployment will be both substantial and gradual, and will be planned and implemented by military commanders. Makes clear that Congress believes troops should be redeployed to the United States; to Afghanistan; and to other points in the region. A residual U.S. presence may remain in Iraq for force protection, training of Iraqi security forces, and pursuit of international terrorists.

Kevin asks rightfully what authority Congress has to mandate a phased redeployment of troops, if there is no threat of cutting off funding for the troops. I note that Obama only puts the "not afffect funding" line in the part of the bill that affects the surge - which renders that part toothless indeed, even without a guaranteed Presidential veto. But I note that the same clause is omitted from the second part about redeployment. So Kevin may be right, orhe may be wrong - what significance does the omission have? We can't say. That vagueness is probably deliberate.

The question for Obama then is would he support de-funding the Iraq war to force the President to perform the phased redeployment he calls for? At present you can't really tell one way or another. Someone needs to get Obama on the record about that.

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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.