Obama: Moving On?

There was a heartening item on the Washington Post’s editorial page a couple of days ago, describing a conversation between Barack Obama and the Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari. Mr. Obama, who prior to becoming the presumptive nominee made an effective play for the left wing of the Democratic base by declaring his support for a forced withdrawal from Iraq, now seems, with the general election as his focus, to be making a laudable and pragmatic move toward the center, and is taking into account the genuine progress that has been made in Iraq in recent months. While he has not yet publicly reversed his position on a timed U.S. pullout, he is planning to visit Iraq soon, and I imagine that a man of his intelligence and subtlety of mind (how refreshing!) can be trusted not to let ideology trump wise counsel.

We read (emphasis mine):

Mr. Zebari, who has served as foreign minister in every Iraqi government since 2003, finds Mr. Obama’s [timed-withdrawal] proposal worrying. In a meeting with Post editors and reporters Tuesday, he said that after all the pain and sacrifices of the past five years, “we are just turning the corner in Iraq.” A precipitous withdrawal, he said, “would create a huge vacuum and undo all the gains and achievements. And the others” — enemies of the United States — “would celebrate.”

Mr. Zebari said he told Mr. Obama that “Iraq is not an island.” In other words, an American withdrawal that destabilized the country would also roil the region around it and embolden U.S. adversaries such as al-Qaeda and Iran. “We have a deadly enemy,” Mr. Zebari said. “When he sees that you commit yourself to a certain timetable, he will use this to increase pressure and attacks, to make it look as though he is forcing you out. We have many actors who would love to take advantage of that opportunity.” Mr. Zebari says he believes U.S. forces can and should be drawn down. His point is that reductions should be made gradually, as the Iraqi army becomes stronger.

The foreign minister said “my message” to Mr. Obama “was very clear. . . . Really, we are making progress. I hope any actions you will take will not endanger this progress.” He said he was reassured by the candidate’s response, which caused him to think that Mr. Obama might not differ all that much from Mr. McCain. Mr. Zebari said that in addition to promising a visit, Mr. Obama said that “if there would be a Democratic administration, it will not take any irresponsible, reckless, sudden decisions or action to endanger your gains, your achievements, your stability or security. Whatever decision he will reach will be made through close consultation with the Iraqi government and U.S. military commanders in the field.”

Though I found all the breathless swooning over Mr. Obama more than a little disturbing, there is no question that he is an enormously intelligent and energetic man, with remarkable political gifts. Should he take a more pragmatic approach in Iraq, he will doubtlessly be lambasted by MoveOn.org and their ilk, who will feel betrayed, but “politics ain’t beanbag”. As Churchill said: “you must look at the facts, because they look at you.”

Meanwhile, the more I see of John McCain, the less I like him. Should Mr. Obama continue to display such willingness to subordinate party ideology to the nation’s (and the Western world’s) genuine long-term interests, I will be happy to vote for him in November.

Read the Post editorial here.


  1. the one eyed man says

    I was thinking today how awesome it would be if Obama picked Don Van Vliet for his running mate. Van Vliet might not carry any of the major swing states, but it would be the Coolest Presidential Ticket Ever. The Republican Party is so damaged that they’d probably lose if Abraham Lincoln was on top of the ticket, so he could probably get away with it. If he’s really serious about being audacious …

    Posted June 22, 2008 at 7:30 pm | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    I agree that it would be worth almost anything to see Captain Beefheart presiding over the Senate, but sadly, I think he is not at all well these days.

    Posted June 22, 2008 at 11:56 pm | Permalink
  3. the one eyed man says

    I’m sorry to hear that the Captain is ill. That must be why you don’t see much press speculation about an Obama-Beefheart ticket.

    It’s too bad that Sun Ra is dead — he would be a pretty cool VP. They could even rename the Cabinet to the Intergalactic Arkestra.

    Maybe Ornette Coleman?

    Posted June 23, 2008 at 8:56 am | Permalink

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