(He Oughta Do It) His Way
Top generals have submitted a timeline to remove troops from Iraq that is far more deliberate than what Obama advocated for during the campaign.
The plan was proposed by the top American commanders responsible for Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus and Gen. Ray Odierno, and it represents their first recommendation on troop withdrawals under an Obama presidency. While Mr. Obama has said he will seek advice from his commanders, their resistance to a faster drawdown could present the new president with a tough political choice between overruling his generals or backing away from his goal.
The plan, completed last week, envisions withdrawing two more brigades, or some 7,000 to 8,000 troops, from Iraq in the first six months of 2009, the military officials said. But that would leave 12 combat brigades in Iraq by June 2009, and while declining to be more specific, the officials made clear that the withdrawal of all combat forces under the generals’ recommendations would not come until some time after May 2010, Mr. Obama’s target.
The good news here is that in the end, this document does meet with the SOFA agreement to remove all American troops by the end of 2011.
Here's the thing. If Obama was stepping into a bitterly divided debate, demanding his solution when there was still plenty of support for staying in Iraq longer. But that's not the case. Americans are pretty united in wanting troops to leave. 70% want him to withdraw from Iraq within 16 months. Obama really doesn't need to worry about the fallout for rejecting the advice of the generals and going with his original timeline. He does need to be concerned about his generals undermining him. Ultimately there may be some sort of compromise, but the President-elect ought to realize that he has a lot of political capital to spend here.
The good news is that, on other issues, it looks like the military is bending to the will of Obama's campaign promises. Bob Gates is drafting plans for the closure of Guantanamo, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is talking up defense spending cuts.
The top U.S. military officer says the Pentagon cannot afford continued cost overruns and is hinting that some weapons systems may be cut or scaled back under President-elect Barack Obama.
"I'm obviously discouraged by the lack of cost control that we've got in so many ... of our programs," Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday.
"We are going to have to get a grip on that or we will not be able to buy them," Mullen said, "or we won't be able to buy them in the quantity we need."
Very encouraging. So hopefully Obama will get his way on this one as well.