Obama, during his spar with McCain over Iraq yesterday, called Russert's debate question about chasing AQ in Iraq "a hypothetical". He said it in a disdainful manner, as if it was absurd question.
Here's the question.
Here's the reply.
A quick aside--note the change in tone while speaking. During the debates he uses a very controlled voice yet when in front of the faithful switches to a more sing-songy preacher-like tone. Different venues, but it clearly shows his strength.
But let's investigate his proposals, as far as we can surmise. First of all, we have more than one enemy in the terrorist world. He keeps talking about al Qaeda, but Hizballah, Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood and others have dim views of our future. The GWoT is not specific to one organization. We've been variously attacked by all.
On Iraq his rationale seems to be that our departure would vaporize al Qaeda in Iraq because our arrival created them to begin with. Sounds like a hypothetical itself. It also seems to imply that we'd be handing the country over to the violent insurgents whose goals and tactics are exactly like the cave-dwelling franchise of AQ he wants to eradicate, while admitting that America was responsible for their murderous actions to begin with. Now this might play well politically--everything can be blamed on Bush--but it doesn't do a damned thing for the country.
He says he'll continue to attack AQ elements with a small surviving force, located somewhere, but that might be difficult when the enemy doesn't wear uniforms and we no longer have neighborhood intelligence. Some observers have even predicted that a complete US abandonment would immediately be heralded as a huge win for terrorists and rogue state dictators worldwide, certainly affecting our abilities to maintain permanent basing rights from which to launch quick strikes. Even Bush says we're not asking for bases in Iraq.
It's probably also a silly hypothetical to suggest that unilateral strikes into territory we've already left--to engage the enemy that was already there--would constitute cowboy diplomacy. When the Marine barracks were attacked in Beirut in 1983 by Imad Mughdiyah's Hizballah forces president Reagan mulled over whether to send quick strike forces back in after he'd removed all our troops, but decided not to. They called Reagan a cowboy anyway. Barack is saying he'd do the opposite. How will this repair the torn image of America Barack has said he'll repair?
He says he'll divert Iraqi troops into Afghanistan. Would our increase cause NATO forces, some already ancy to leave, to draw down or back up requiring more forces? Besides, everyone knows high troop levels there don't guarantee success--just ask the Russians--and they certainly won't allow us to catch terrorists in Pakistan or Iran, including bin Laden or Zawahiri. What happens if we get bogged down in Afghanistan--something predicted (and probably hoped for) by the MSM back in 2001--and the enemy regroups in Iraq, Sudan or Somalia?
We know that's the goal of Iran, some in Pakistan, and perhaps even Russia and China. They'll be scrutinizing the Iraq model with an eye on repeating its success in Afghanistan with a goal of collapsing our entire war effort and leaving us vulnerable to attack at any time, which would strengthen their respective positions. If we lose there and Iraq re-ignites, game over. Then what?
So yes, there are a lot of hypotheticals. Stakes are high. Republicans should be focusing on this side of Obama not his name. But not just the GOP, the country at large should want to know more. The outcome affects everyone. As a candidate for president Obama has a special responsibility to answer all these hypotheticals to the best of his ability and make us feel comfortable with his decisions. The past is for politics, the future is for leadership--and we know Obama is for the future.