Tom Hayden addresses Obama's current stance on the Iraq War in Obama's Position on Iraq Could Put His Candidacy at RiskHuffington Post 07/04/08, also appearing as Barack at RiskThe Nation 07/05/08. There has been a lot of discussion lately, some of it Republican hot air, of course, about Obama's alleged changing of his position on the Iraq War. But Hayden has always realized that Obama's position fell short of what needs to be done, a complete pullout of US troops from Iraq. As he writes:
I first endorsed Obama because of the nature of the movement supporting him, not his particular stands on issues. The excitement among African-Americans and young people, the audacity of their hope, still holds the promise of a new era of social activism. The force of their rising expectations, I believe, could pressure a President Obama in a progressive direction and also energize a new wave of social movements.
And of course, there is the need to end the Republican reign that began with a stolen election followed by eight years of war and torture, corporate gouging, environmental decay, domestic spying and right-wing court appointments, just in case we forget who Obama is running against. ...
From the beginning, Obama's symbolic 2002 position on Iraq has been very promising, reinforced again and again by his campaign pledge to "end the war" in 2009. (my emphasis)
But that pledge also has been laced with loopholes all along, caveats that the mainstream media and his opponents [excepting Bill Richardson] have ignored or avoided until now. As I pointed out in Ending the War in Iraq , Obama's 2002 speech opposed the coming war with Iraq as "dumb", while avoiding what position he would take once the war was underway. Then he wrote of almost changing his position from anti- to pro-war after a trip to Iraq. He never took as forthright a position as Senator Russ Feingold, among others. Then he adopted the safe, nonpartisan formula of the Baker-Hamilton Study Group, which advocated the withdrawal of combat troops while leaving thousands of American counter-terrorism units, advisers and trainers behind.
The pressure on Obama to keep the Iraq War going if he is elected President will be tremendous. Currently, Republican war fans present a propaganda picture of the war that would have embarassed writers for the East German news service back in the day. But the moment Obama is elected, they can be expected to become suddenly starkly realistic about events in Iraq, even overly pessimistic, if that's even possible. And they will blame every piece of bad news on Obama's alleged shortcomings even before he takes office.
If public pressure can't force Obama to commit to full withdrawal from Iraq, within three months or so after his inauguration - at the latest - it will become "Obama's war" and then he will have a stake in showing that amorphous quality of "credibility" by continuing the war at some level.
The Afghanistan War is also a trap for him. As Andrew Gray reports for Reuters (US Marines to stay longer in southern Afghanistan 07/03/08), the Pentagon just extended the combat tour of 2,200 Marines in Afghanistan for 30 days, which presumably will cause at least a month-long "surge" of US troop levels:
The United States has some 32,000 troops in Afghanistan - around 14,000 in the NATO-led force and some 18,000 performing missions from counter-terrorism to training Afghan forces.
There are around 145,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.
Escalating troop levels in Afghanistan on an open-ended basis will create as big a mess in Afghanistan as in Iraq, maybe an even more disastrous one for the US. The Afghanistan War began in 2001, and still has no end in sight. Like the British and the Russians in past times, the US and European troops will eventually withdraw having achieved something notably less than their original goals.
If the Cheney-Bush administration's strategy had been different, a significant improvement in conditions in Afghanistan might have been achieved in the particular world political climate after the 9/11 attacks. But if we had magic pixie dust to cure colds, we could do away with colds, too.