You’ve been talking about those limited missions for a long time. Having gone there and talked to both diplomatic and military folks, do you have a clearer idea of how big a force you’d need to leave behind to fulfill all those functions?At this point, there is only a marginal amount of difference between what Barack Obama wants to do and what McCain wants to do. If Obama wants to begin troop withdrawal immediately but also leave a residual force that will be maintained based on conditions, there is now very little difference between his position and McCain's. That said, the difference is open to exploitation by the McCain campaign.
I do think that’s entirely conditions-based. It’s hard to anticipate where we may be six months from now, or a year from now, or a year and a half from now.
As it stands now on Obama's Iraq policy, which has shown remarkable fluidity, we will begin the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, however our residual force will be entirely conditions based. In other words, we aren't going to remove all combat forces from Iraq in sixteen months, we will merely finish the removal of forces while leaving the residual force. Obama hasn't specified how large that residual force will be. Estimates have put it between 50 thousand and 75 thousand.
So, really the only difference now is that Obama will begin removing forces regardless of conditions on the ground. Now, if this is implemented, it will likely lead to an uptick in violence. If it does, will Obama immediately move forces back in or will he continue with the withdrawal? Will he pause in the withdrawal if it leads to an uptick in violence?
If Obama plans on leaving a significant presence in Iraq, how is his plan in any way different from McCain's...besides the fact that his is much more likely to increase violence? If he plans on leaving a significant presence what is so special about his sixteen month time horizon? After all, American troops will still be in a war zone in significant numbers. Given that our casualties will liekly fall below twenty this month, wouldn't his plan only lead to more U.S. casualties? If the residual force is entirely based on conditions, why isn't the withdrawal horizon itself also based on conditions?
As you can see, this new nuance leads to an endless amount of questions for which there aren't any good answers. These are all questions the McCain campaign needs to hammer Obama on and make him account for numerous hypotheticals for which there are no good predictions. this sort of nuanced position in which Obama wants the best of both worlds where he has a timetable for withdrawal and also a plan that is based on conditions is actually a total disaster waiting to happen. This is what the McCain campaign needs to point out if they want to win the Iraq debate.