Since John McCain’s “2013 speech,” in which he mentioned wanting to have troops home from Iraq within four years, the media is now trying to draw comparisons between McCain’s plan and Obama’s.
Here’s today’s Los Angeles Times:
After launching their candidacies with opposite positions on the Iraq war, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama seem to be edging toward a middle ground between them.
McCain has long denounced timetables for withdrawal, but said for the first time Thursday that he would like to see most U.S. troops out of Iraq by a specific date: 2013.
Obama has emphasized his plan to withdraw all combat brigades within 16 months of taking office, but also has carefully hedged, leaving the option of taking more time — and leaving more troops — if events require.
The positioning is noteworthy because McCain and Obama have made Iraq war policy a core element of their campaigns. But McCain has bowed to the political reality that American impatience with the war is growing, and Obama to the fact that a poorly executed exit would risk damage to other vital U.S. interests.
When McCain spoke of keeping peacetime troops in Iraq after the war, it was seized upon as his plan for a hundred-year battle. Now, when he talks about his hopes for a victorious exit in four years, he’s accused of setting timetables for withdrawal. McCain was very clear on this point yesterday. Answering questions after the speech, he stated that an early exit of troops is predicated on an American victory.
As for Obama, he’s been loath to share the specifics of a comprehensive Iraq plan for a long time. He’s pledged to get troops out of combat within sixteen months, but he talks about leaving “residual” troops behind to protect the American embassy and our diplomats. And he’s equally vague about his plans for a “strike force” to be sent back into Iraq as needed. Of course, this kind of hazy Iraq policy makes it easy to compare Obama to any number of people who have said any number of things about the future of the war.
Even so, drawing parallels between his war plan and John McCain’s is a stretch. But then, the stretch has become the guiding narrative of this election. If President Bush’s denouncement of appeasement is an attack on Obama, then McCain’s stated hopes for victory might as well be a “tilt” toward Obama’s drawdown plan.