Today Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke to reporters after President Bush announced that troop levels in Iraq would remain mostly unchanged. He used his remarks to connect George W. Bush and John McCain, but my question is, if we really are winning in Iraq why do we need 140,000 troops there?
Obama highlighted the fact that Bush and McCain share the same views on Iraq, “Now, the choice for the American people could not be clearer. John McCain has been talking a lot about change, but he’s running for four more years of the same foreign policy that we’ve had under George Bush. Senator McCain will continue the overwhelming focus on Iraq that has taken our eye off of the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11. And Senator McCain goes even further than President Bush in opposing the sovereign Iraqi government’s own support for a timetable to redeploy our troops, and he has no plan to press the Iraqis to reconcile.”
The Democrat also spoke about how he would change our foreign policy, “It’s time to change our foreign policy. I will succeed in Iraq by responsibly removing our combat brigades and pressing Iraqis to stand up for their future. I will rebuild our military. I will finally have a comprehensive strategy to finish the job in Afghanistan – with more troops, more training for Afghan security forces, more development resources, more anti-corruption safeguards, and more of a focus on eliminating the Taliban and al Qaeda sanctuary along the Pakistan border. And I will stop spending $10 billion a month in Iraq so that we can invest in our economy here at home.”
He also linked Bush and McCain together on judgment, “We heard no explanation for why Osama bin Laden is still at large, because that’s where George Bush and John McCain’s judgment has gotten us. President Bush’s speech today underscored that we cannot afford more of the same.”
John McCain is out on the campaign trail claiming on an almost daily basis that the surge has virtually won the war in Iraq. The problem with Obama’s remarks today is that he didn’t ask the simple, but obvious question. If we are as close to victory as McCain claims, then why do we need to keep 140,000 troops in Iraq? It doesn’t make sense. If Iraq is more stable and we are winning, then why can’t the number of troops at least return to pre-surge levels?
The answer is that things aren’t as stable in Iraq as McCain wants us to believe. The government in Iraq is almost completely dependent on the United States to handle their security. Basic services still have not been restored. The Iraqi government is progressing at a snail’s pace, and appears to moving without direction or incentive. John McCain needs to realize that we can’t leave 140,000 troops there forever. Obama needs to thank Bush for handing him this issue to hit McCain with, but I think he needs to move beyond the Bush -McCain linking, and start asking why we if we are winning, do we need to stay in Iraq?