Tuesday, September 09, 2008

I'm worried about Obama

Of course I'm worried about his slip in the polls since the Republican Convention, but that's not what I'm talking about here. I'm worried about his various statements and positions since his nomination. He's equivocated about offshore drilling, troop reduction in Iraq, extension of the Bush tax cuts and other facets of what I once believed was his truly progressive agenda. But even these items don't bother me too much--I expected a slide toward the center by the Democratic nominee, it happens every election. What is most troubling so far is his recent concession, in an interview with Bill O'Reilly, that the "surge" has "succeeded beyond our wildest dreams."

What this quote reveals to me about Obama are these things:

1. He's getting sloppy with his language. No matter how conditional and nuanced the remainder of his sentence or paragraph is, this single line has handed McCain a quote that he will hit Obama over the head with continuously from now until November. But that's only my superficial problem with it.

2. He's fallen for the "surge" and "success" definitions of the Bush/Republican regime. If the surge is defined by the limited concept of the infusion of more American troops, and success is defined as merely a decline in the number of Iraqi and American deaths, then the surge has been a success. But what has taken place in Iraq since last winter is much more than increased American troop levels; and the "success" isn't success at all, but wreckage and imprisonment and a deferral of retribution.

First--and before any additional American troops arrived--the Sunnis decided to take American bribe monies and turn on the al-Qaeda cells in Anbar province. This had nothing to do with more American troops, it was a stopgap measure that decreased al Qaeda's killings, but simply increased the power of Sunni tribesmen, to the chagrin of the Shiite leaders in Baghdad.

Second, cities like Fallujah that had been the scene of much violence in the past have been turned into ruined fortresses, devastated by two American assaults and bombings, with berms surrounding them and Identity Cards required for entry, and massive police presence to ensure "peace." In other words, we've made armed camps out of Iraqi towns, and this happened independent of any surge, and in many cases was accomplished before the surge was even announced.

Third, within Baghdad, blast walls and checkpoints and multiple troop stations throughout the city have created Sunni and Shiite ghettos, suppressing violence between the sects, but not extinguishing it. This is not "success" it is deferral.

Finally, in addition to the increased American troop levels, there have been insidious tactics--assassinations, spying, infiltration--used by Shiite supporters of Iran's influence that have caused decrease in violence through outside forces unrelated to the American presence, indeed, antithetical to it. This, plus the injunction by American enemy the cleric al-Sadr, that his militias stand down temporarily, have suppressed violence in the short run only to promise it hereafter.

So--Obama's understanding of what's truly at work in Iraq appears restricted, uneducated--and that's most troubling of all, because that could mean that as president he'd be acting and reacting as unwisely as have America's leaders for the last five years with regard to Iraq, and if so with Iraq, what about the rest of the world? Obama needs to read posts such as this in order to comprehend Iraq's present status, and if he did he'd never use the language of America's leaders and pundits when assessing what's afoot in Iraq.

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