Barack Obama is introducing a bill to put a cap on the number of forces in Iraq, and here’s a question for you. Do yousuppose the Illinois senator is doing it because he stayed up late at night puzzling over military strategy and the history of warfare and determined that it is a nifty idea to conduct combat legislatively, or do you suppose something else is at play?
Maybe, just maybe, his decision to attempt direct intervention in the sorts of decisions ordinarily left up to the generals in the field, the Pentagon and the commander in chief has more to do with studying public opinion surveys and pondering what it might take to win the Democratic nomination for president in 2008.
Even if you grant — as I do — that this expositor of even-handed, moderate, nonideological approaches to issues genuinely believes the war an unjustifiable horror, he surely can’t believe it appropriate for Congress to dictate troop levels. If he does, what does that say about his theme of finding a unifying middle way in the construction of policies?
He himself said in remarks on the Senate floor that Congress should not micromanage war, pushing one toward the conclusion that, for him, the middle way is having it both ways, doing what he simultaneously says you shouldn’t do and thereby making everyone happy except for those who notice the contradiction.
For all this political maneuvering by a supposed nonpolitician, Obama lagged behind Sen. Hillary Clinton, who voted for and has mostly supported this war but has gradually been falling in line with poll results, and who recently journeyed to Iraq preparatory to announcing her own troop-cap proposal.
Clinton still has not gone as far as Obama, who wants a phased withdrawal from Iraq, or as another announced Democratic candidate, John Edwards, who says we should bring the troops home now, immediately, today. None of these three strikes me as being sufficiently serious about a very serious matter, but least of all Edwards, whose presidential ambitions outweigh any informed or caring sense of what a precipitous retreat could mean.
No, for national-security seriousness, you have to turn to someone like Republican Sen. John McCain, who is supporting President Bush in his plans to increase our troop presence. From what I have read, McCain knows his enthusiasm for an alternative to virtual surrender might cost him any chance he has to be president, and isn’t happy about it, but would be less happy still if he abandoned his integrity in the cause of opening doors for terrorists.
Nor should we forget Sen. Joe Lieberman, returning to the Senate as an independent, who recently had this to say in an interview in the Wall Street Journal: "If we leave [Iraq], the place collapses. And it’s more than civil war, it’s ethnic cleansing. The Iranians come in and dominate a good chunk of the country. Al-Qaida takes over a good part and uses it as a base. ... And then the same group of people who attacked us on 9/11, they achieve a victory, and they will use that victory to strike at us again."
Not exactly minor considerations.
Examiner columnist Jay Ambrose is a former editor of two daily newspapers. He may be reached at SpeaktoJay@aol.com
Decades ago, I was a reporter in Albany, N.Y., working for a newspaper at the foot of a hill that could be ascended only with huffing, puffing, knee endangerment and sweat unless you employed a trick.