One of the key elements that put Barack Obama ahead of Hillary Clinton in the Democratic race for the party nomination was the issue of bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq. Senator Clinton, in a reasonable and sensible approach, maintained that the war in Iraq should be ended as quickly as possible, but maintained that she would reserve judgement on the return of combat and support forces for after being briefed, as President, by top military officials on the effects and eventualities that a sudden exodus of forces from Iraq would bring.
Senator Obama, on the other hand, has maintained that he will begin bringing troops home, withdrawing all combat troops, two brigades per month, over the first sixteen months of his presidency. Such a withdrawal, according to many military personnel, could have dire and long term effects in Iraq, and for the rest of the world as well.
Military personnel in Iraq are following the presidential race closely, especially when it comes to Iraq.
The soldiers and commanders we spoke to will not engage in political conversation or talk about any particular candidate, but they had some strong opinions about the military mission which they are trying to accomplish, and the dramatic security gains they have made in the past few months.
We spent a day with Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond in Sadr City. He is the commander of the 4th Infantry Division, which is responsible for Baghdad. Hammond will likely be one of the commanders who briefs Barack Obama when he visits Iraq.
"We still have a ways to go. Number one, we're working on security and it's very encouraging, that's true, but what we're really trying to achieve here is sustainable security on Iraqi terms. So, I think my first response to that would be let's look at the conditions.
"Instead of any time-based approach to any decision for withdrawal, it's got to be conditions-based, with the starting point being an intelligence analysis of what might be here today, and what might lie ahead in the future. I still think we still have work that remains to be done before I can really answer that question," Hammond said when asked how he would feel about an order to start drawing down two combat brigades a month.
Asked if he considered it dangerous to pull out if the withdrawal is not based on "conditions," Hammond said, "It's very dangerous. I'll speak for the coalition forces, men and women of character and moral courage; we have a mission, and it's not until the mission is done that I can look my leader in the eye and say, 'Sir, Ma'am, mission accomplished,' and I think it is dangerous to leave anything a little early."
This doesn't even begin to touch on the logistical considerations for moving that many troops, and that much equipment, in that short of a time frame, without creating a situation that affects the military budget and capacity to wage an effective combat operation if redeployed elsewhere because of having to abandon equipment in country in order to meet a political time line.
Ed Morrissey of Hot Air has this take on it:
This is the kind of information that policy makers usually get before formulating policy. We can rotate troops out of Iraq on the kind of timetable Obama suggests, but we’d have to leave all of our heavy equipment in Iraq. Unless Obama plans some kind of nationwide garage sale, that would be a rather large loss for the American military in materiel as well as making our exit look more like Dunkirk.
Obviously, Obama didn’t have any awareness of logistics when he made this proposal — and that’s the point. His lack of experience, combined with a hubris that he has consistently shown on the campaign trail, makes clear that he is in way over his head at this point of his career. He has no sense of military policy at all, and got the biggest call of the war — the surge — completely wrong. Yet he insists that he’s ready to lead this nation’s military during a time of war as Commander in Chief?
Realistically, it's not plausible. Obama himself has even begun to waffle on the issue verbally, but maintains, on his official website, that this is still one of his key campaign promises that he will fulfill upon taking the office of the President, if he is elected to such.
Words mean things, and if one is going to make such a straight forward and committed position as Obama has made, one should be prepared, in advance, to be able to achieve such tasks as one promises to deliver. Obama, in true political fashion and demonstrating a marked lack of experience and understanding of the deployment of military forces, has committed himself to a politically suicidal position, should he gain the office of President. On the one hand, if he is elected and is unable to deliver on his promise to bring the troops home from Iraq within the first sixteen months of his administration, he has delivered, upon the proverbial silver platter, ammunition for a Republican opponent (as well as potential Democratic opponents) for the 2012 election cycle. On the other hand, should he manage to move 2 full brigades of troops back to the states per month, forcing a wholesale abandonment of equipment in country in Iraq (which undoubtedly will fall into the hands of those whom we would prefer not to have said equipment, provided the military doesn't render it unusable prior to departure), our military will face a state of unpreparedness unseen since the days of the Carter administration.
Should Obama become President, his lack of experience and understanding of the military, and his lack of willingness to listen to expert advice, has caused Obama to create for himself, within the less than a year and a half of taking office, the ultimate political death; he has backed himself into a no-win situation.
Once and Always, an American Fighting Man