I agree with Mr Clinton Urling (‘Nothing wrong about changing one’s position if circumstances change,’ SN March 3) that a President can change his position to reflect changed political realities. He was replying to Freddie Kissoon’s column on Obama wavering in his Iraqi troop withdrawal campaign commitment. The President is being pragmatic. An immediate (or a total) withdrawal is not possible given the fragile political situation in Iraq. If the US were to completely withdraw from Iraq, it would be a free-for-all war that would be uncontrollable, and Iraq would descend into a breeding ground for Islamic terrorists similar to Afghanistan in the 1990s.
Obama announced the withdrawal of most US troops from Iraq by August 2010 to soldiers in NC. The Associated Press interviewed several soldiers who heaped praise on Obama’s military agenda and the withdrawal timetable. The troops are pragmatists and recognize the need for a gradual withdrawal.
As Kissoon penned, Obama campaigned for the democratic nomination on a promise that he would end the war and bring home the troops and beat Hillary Clinton who was unwilling to make such a bold commitment. But campaign announcement and/or policy don’t remain static. Foreign and military policies have to take into consideration changed political realities.
I had opposed the US invasion of Iraq from the outset, describing it as illegal and unnecessary to oust Saddam Hussein. But once troops were committed to Iraq, there was no way to oppose their presence until the job was done. And once there, it is now virtually impossible to bring all the troops home because of the rise of jihadist terror.
Obama is pursuing a wise policy of a gradual paring down of troops. Currently, there are 146,000 American troops in Iraq. By August of 2010, it is projected that the troops would decline by 100,000 with some being reassigned to Afghanistan to combat jihadists there. By the next presidential election in 2012, almost all troops would have been brought home because Obama would face electoral pressure to keep his promise. But until then, tens of thousands of troops will remain in Iraq to continue overseeing the stability of the country. Even after the 2012 election, American and foreign troops will remain in Iraq in order to ensure relative stability. Obama and his advisors would not want to see Iraq slide back into the sectarian war that existed before the US troop surge a year ago.