Monday, February 2, 2009

Obama Toughing Out His Campaign Promise?

President Obama is seen as a messiah like figure, to lead the US out of darkness to the promise land. I haven't seen this kind of over-hype since U2 put out Rattle and Hum. However, maybe there is a chance that he can show good leadership?

During the campaign, Obama promised to start withdrawal of US troops from Iraq as soon as he took office. The generals, and many other in Washington seemed to believe that once he took power he'd realize how difficult this decision will be and would back down.

If this eye opening article from InterPress, republished in the Huffington Post, is credible, Obama is very serious about it. To the dismay of senior military officials. (read)

CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus, supported by Defence Secretary Robert Gates, tried to convince President Barack Obama that he had to back down from his campaign pledge to withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16
months at an Oval Office meeting Jan. 21.

But Obama informed Gates, Petraeus and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen that he wasn't convinced and that he wanted Gates and the military leaders to come back quickly with a detailed 16-month plan, according to two sources who have talked with participants in the meeting.

Obama's decision to override Petraeus's recommendation has not ended the conflict between the president and senior military officers over troop withdrawal, however. There are indications that Petraeus and his allies in the military and the Pentagon, including Gen. Ray Odierno, now the top commander in Iraq, have already begun to try to pressure Obama to change his withdrawal policy.

A network of senior military officers is also reported to be preparing to support Petraeus and Odierno by mobilising public opinion against Obama's decision.

Petraeus was visibly unhappy when he left the Oval Office, according to one of the sources. A White House staffer present at the meeting was quoted by the source as saying, "Petraeus made the mistake of thinking he was still dealing with George Bush instead of with Barack Obama."

The HuffPo is a voluntary propaganda arm of Obama. Still, this looks very promising. But...

The source says the network, which includes senior active duty officers in the Pentagon, will begin making the argument to journalists covering the Pentagon that Obama's withdrawal policy risks an eventual collapse in Iraq. That would raise the political cost to Obama of sticking to his withdrawal policy.

If Obama does not change the policy, according to the source, they hope to have planted the seeds of a future political narrative blaming his withdrawal policy for the "collapse" they expect in an Iraq without U.S. troops.

If this is true, I'm not surprised in the least. As I mentioned a few days ago, there is going to be major resistance to them leaving. They'll say: "We can't leave the country in chaos!"; "Look what happened when we withdrew from Vietnam!" It's missing the point of the whole endeavor. If the country cannot stabilize by itself in seven years, there's not much use in spending another seven or seventy years and getting more troops killed and spending zillions of dollars.

Obama has a real opportunity but a small window. If he pulls this off it will be an astonishing accomplishment.

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