Thursday, June 07, 2007

Clarifying the "Obama-Zakheim" Plan

First, to note: there is no "Obama-Zakheim" plan, at least none I am aware of. I don't know whether Barack Obama and Dov Zakheim have ever been able to converse on Iraq in person. Nor am I suggesting that the two have similar positions on Iraq. Far from it. There are profound differences, beginning with the desirability of going into Iraq in 2003 in the first place.

In discussing a hypothetical Obama-Zakheim plan, my point was to say that if we use their positions as a starting point, we might then be able to find some common ground for thinking about Iraq policy.

Following his participation in the TNI symposium, Zakheim, in early January 2007, outlined further his view of "operating at the borders" in Iraq. In an op-ed in the Financial Times, he noted:

"... the US must reposition its forces to foster regional stability and minimise casualties. Up to two brigades should be devoted to Kurdistan and a roughly equal number to the far west of Anbar province. ...

"By operating from Iraq's borders American forces would be well placed to prevent the establishment of terrorist training camps anywhere in Iraq, including Anbar province. In addition, it ensures that US forces have a realisable mission. They may be unable to bring stability to all of Iraq, but they can certainly bring a degree of stability to the region."

Meanwhile, in November 2006, Obama had observed:

"Drawing down our troops in Iraq will allow us to redeploy additional troops to Northern Iraq and elsewhere in the region as an over-the-horizon force. This force could help prevent the conflict in Iraq from becoming a wider war, consolidate gains in Northern Iraq, reassure allies in the Gulf, allow our troops to strike directly at al Qaeda wherever it may exist, and demonstrate to international terrorist organizations that they have not driven us from the region."

This is why I think that there is at least the genesis of a workable, bi-partisan, pragmatic approach. And alongside "Baker-Hamilton", Obama-Zakheim certainly has a nice ring, doesn't it?

It is an interesting thought, but not going to happen. Primary voters don't want bipartisanship and right now everyone wants to differentiate themselves. There's no way you could come to a middle figure between Obama's desire for a limited number of troops and the 75000 Zakheim says we'd need. Zakheim's figure is based on strategic calculation, Obama's on political necessity. Moreover, no running Republican right now, at least in the top tier, wants to be seen actively going against the president, and getting a known maverick like Hagel to endorse some sort of middle of the road plan wouldn't help.
I thought Hillary was closer to position to Zakheim than Obama, at least that was what was being said a few months ago.
Have to agree with anonymous 3:25 on this one. The only exception would be if senior Republicans like Lugar made an approach to Obama and said let's do something like this, since it seems Obama takes some of his foreign policy cues from his oclleauge.
Where are these Zakheim's 750,000 troops are going to come from? It takes a year and a half to train 10,000 soldiers. Yet another disconnect.
That's 75,000 not 750,000 ...
Correct but makes no practical difference: it is not going to happen.
how is this a solution to anything? Obama's over the horizon is more over the rainbow than anything else - like everything he says it sounds nice but what really does it mean? How would this putative redeployment stop regional spread? - we can't stop violence now, how are less troops going to stop more of it from further away??? And I love the way Obama just papers over with troops on the borders we run the risk of being drawn into something much worse - not that we shouldn't be involved in this something much worse, just don't talk as if that's not the reality. I swear to god if Obama becomes president he'll be worse than Bush, he'll be like Carter to Nixon.
Anonymous 4:16:

I take strong exception to your mischaracterization of both Nixon and Carter.

Nixon was a great strategic thinker with deep grasp of US position in the worldd. He promised to get US out of the neo-liberal fantasy war in Vietnam and he did that; leaving America with a fig leaf to cover herself. His shortcoming was his loyalty to his associates to the point of obstructing Justice; a grave crime from the highest magistrate of the land.

As for Carter, he got the Camp David Accords. Yes, he was indecisive perhaps but he did not drag US's reputation through blood and mud.

I would have preferred something like "Obama would be worse than Bush II."
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