After rounding up evidence that the tenuous series of cease-fires that are currently keeping Iraq at levels of violence worse than what we saw in 2003 or 2004 but better than 2006 or 2007 may be unraveling, Fred Kaplan points to some indications that Admiral Fallon at CENTCOM thinks we should swiftly transition from un-surging in Iraq to deeper cutbacks in the force levels. This has tended to be a tension throughout the surge period, with a president psychologically and politically committed to Iraq willing to pour endlessly resources into that country, and a commanding general in David Petraeus who naturally likes the idea of his area of responsibility getting all the juice, but a host of other officials between Bush and Petraeus concerned about the strategic costs of this sort of overcommitment to Iraq.
Here’s Barack Obama talking today in Denver:
It’s time for new leadership that understands that the way to win a debate with John McCain is not by nominating someone who agreed with him on voting for the war in Iraq; who agreed with him by voting to give George Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran; who agrees with him in embracing the Bush-Cheney policy of not talking to leaders we don’t like; and who actually differed with him by arguing for exceptions for torture before changing positions when the politics of the moment changed.
We need to offer the American people a clear contrast on national security, and when I am the nominee of the Democratic Party, that’s exactly what I will do. Talking tough and tallying up your years in Washington is no substitute for judgment, and courage, and clear plans. It’s not enough to say you’ll be ready from Day One – you have to be right from Day One.
Obviously, Obama, too, would have some problems against John McCain who’ll argue that he’s too green. But the basic spirit here seems correct to me. You want to argue that discontentment with the fruits of Bush’s policies should cause you to vote against John McCain, and the best argument you can make to that effect is that Bush and McCain have very similar records. But to make that argument, you need to be able to step a couple of paces back from your opponent and really wind up and throw a solid punch.
I’m pretty sure we’re not going to see nonsense like this from either President Clinton or President Obama. Even if neither winds up really governing the way I’d be happiest with, we’ll no longer have a policy guided by a knee-jerk aversion to pragmatism.
It seems that Barack Obama must remain forever in purgatory as far as Commentary‘s concerned since he once — shudder — called for an “even-handed approach” to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Needless to say, it was a similar formulation that got Howard Dean in so much trouble back during the 2004 cycle.
I also have to say that this strikes me as a curiously nonsensical red line for Israel’s false friends to be drawing. After all, supporting an “even-handed approach” sounds like exactly the sort of line someone not utterly steeped in the latest talking points might cross by accident. But on top of that, no matter how much you may believe deep in your heart that Arabs are less human than Jews and therefore less worthy of our consideration, it seems like for tactical purposes you ought to at least pretend to favor an even-handed approach and then just proclaim whichever approach you favor to be the even-handed one. That’s just common sense.