Saturday, December 29, 2007

Leaving Iraq will make America safer

Surge success can't mask political failure

By Barack Obama
For the Monitor
December 29. 2007 12:25AM

In recent weeks, I've been asked if the "surge" is working, and if we should continue to fight the war in Iraq. The answer is decisively no.

Those who support the surge are making the same mistakes that war supporters have made all along: They fail to understand how the Iraq war sets back our security, and they fail to understand that there is no military solution in Iraq.

I am the only major candidate for president who opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning, before it was politically popular. I thought it was wrong to take our focus off of the terrorists in Afghanistan who hit us on 9/11, and to use fear and falsehoods to attack a country that had nothing to do with 9/11. I warned about "an occupation of undetermined length, and undetermined costs, and undetermined consequences" in the middle of the Arab world.

But Congress voted for war, giving President Bush the authority that he uses to keep our troops in Iraq to this day. The costs of that decision have been immense: nearly 4,000 precious American lives, a price-tag that will exceed $1 trillion, and a world that is more dangerous and resistant to American leadership.

The surge has lowered the level of violence in Iraq from the horrific levels of 2006, but it has completely failed to resolve the political grievances at the heart of Iraq's civil war. Meanwhile, we continue to take casualties, our military is overstretched and our military leadership warns that Afghanistan risks sliding into chaos without more troops.

The only way we can press Iraq's leaders to reconcile is to make it clear that we are leaving - otherwise they will continue to use our presence to put off hard compromises. That is why I have repeatedly called for a clear timetable for the removal of our forces from Iraq. The quickest, responsible pace for withdrawal is 1 to 2 combat brigades each month, which means we could remove all of our combat brigades within 16 months.

We should leave enough troops in Iraq to protect our diplomats, and we should have a counter-terrorism force stationed in Iraq that could launch targeted strikes on al-Qaida if it tries to establish a base in Iraq.

As we remove our troops, we must step up our efforts to reach a political solution. Inside of Iraq, we should convene Iraq's leaders and bring in the UN in a push for an accord on national reconciliation. In the region, we should launch the most aggressive diplomatic effort in recent history involving all of Iraq's neighbors - including Iran and Syria - to secure Iraq's borders and support stability. And to deal with the urgent crisis of four million displaced Iraqis, we should lead an international initiative by providing $2 billion for humanitarian relief.

Ending the war isn't just about Iraq's security - it's about America's. Every time we send units to serve tour after tour of duty in Iraq, we limit our ability to deal with other crises. Every month that we're spending $8 billion in Iraq, we neglect other priorities. Every time we hear a plea for more support in Afghanistan or get another message from Osama bin Laden, we're reminded that this war has distracted us from real threats.

It's time to end the war, and the mindset that got us into war. We invaded Iraq because Washington prized tough talk over sound judgment. Now, five years later, Congress has voted for an amendment that opened the door to Iran, candidates are using 9/11 to scare up votes, and conventional wisdom is beginning to trumpet the surge as a success.

To secure our country and restore our standing in the world, we have to stop fighting a misguided war and reject a politics of fear that made the war possible. That is what I will do as president.

------ End of article


For the Monitor

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