The Obama Plan

Illinois Senator Barack Obama has introduced a bill that, effectively, prohibits President Bush’s “new strategy” for Iraq, i.e. “the surge”. In its key elements the Obama plan:

  • Stops the escalation by capping the number of U. S. troops in Iraq at the number there as of January 10, 2007.
  • De-escalates the war in Iraq by compelling the commencement of a phased re-deployment of U. S. forces beginning no later than May 1, 2007.
  • Enforces a number of benchmarks for progress in Iraq.
  • Provides for Congressional oversight.
  • Calls for intensified training of Iraqi security forces.
  • Places conditions on economic assistance.
  • Launches a regional diplomatic initiative.

I haven’t located the actual text of the bill but will link to it when it becomes available.

At first blush, judging only by the statement on Sen. Obama’s web site, and taken solely from a political standpoint the proposal strikes me as a remarkable combination of brilliance and idiocy.

It’s brilliant since, to the best of my knowledge, this is the first such proposal out the gate and, while it’s not too different from a plan proposed a few months ago by John Kerry, Dick Durbin, and others (IIRC including Obama), it’s sure to have Obama’s competitors for the Democratic presidential nomination playing catch-up. Should it be passed by the Senate Sen. Obama may well have become the de facto leader of the Democratic Party and the leading contender for his party’s nomination.

But the plan is idiotic, too. The last thing that Democrats want to do at this point is to take ownership of a failure in Iraq, which should it be passed by both houses would surely be the case. If it fails to pass in the Senate or is tabled there, it will cast doubt on the sincerity of Senate Democrats’ opposition to Bush’s plan.

The obvious counter-ploy by Obama’s competition for the presidential nomination in the Senate is to oppose the Obama plan on the grounds that it doesn’t go far enough. This would bid fair to alienate moderates and place Democrats in a difficult position in 2008.

Again with the caveats above I think it’s likely that this move is an attempt to draw a line in the sand, neutralizing or marginalizing Sen. Clinton and placing other potential Senate competitors to the unelectable left.

Update: Yes, the Obama plan seems to be rather reminiscent of the Kerry-Feingold Amendment defeated last summer. It adds a troop freeze, changes the dates, and adds provisions for benchmarks and withholding of economic support. Obama doesn’t appear to have been a co-sponsor of Kerry-Feingold.

Update 2: The bill is S.433. Text is still unavailable.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Iraq War, , , , , , , , , , , ,
Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.


  1. Monica says:

    In his plan he wants to cap the number of soldiers AND enforce benchmarks for progress? There is a strong possibility you can’t have both, so WTF?

    I’m glad Obama is introducing this bill, it tells me a lot about his politics, which is something I’ve been waiting to hear about.

  2. just me says:

    And the year 2007 is the year the democrats completely decide to micromanage the war.

    I have issues with congress telling the Pentagon or even the CiC how many troops they can have and where they can put them to prosecute a war. That is something the executive does, not the legislative.

    I do agree that the democrats probably don’t want this to pass, and it probably is as much a ploy on Obama’s part to take a position on the war and force other candidates to do so as well.

  3. legion says:

    But the plan is idiotic, too. The last thing that Democrats want to do at this point is to take ownership of a failure in Iraq, which should it be passed by both houses it surely would.

    Politically, that may be true. But in the “real world”, people are still continuing to die. And _someone_ is going to have to take ownership of it if it’s ever going to end. Lord know this administration will never take responsibility for anything…

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    legion, as I noted in my post, it’s solely a political analysis.

  5. Steven Plunk says:

    I believe this administration has taken and will continue to take responsibility for what is happening in Iraq. A single commander in chief can do that.

    On the other hand, Senators and Congressmen can meddle in the military affairs without having to take responsibility. Being one of 100 or one of 435 will afford you that advantage.

    This is pure politics by Obama and that is why it is so low. This is not real policy making by leadership but instead is grandstanding in order to get attention. All of this ignores the damage, at home and abroad, that it will do.

    The press will eat it up and Obama will get what he wants. The more savvy will see through it and realize what a stunt it is. I expect Biden and others to issue a statement shooting it down very shortly.

  6. ken says:

    The only solution to our dilemma in Iraq is to get out. It will solve the problem of US military meddling in a civil war in which we cannot win no matter which side we take.

    And politically it makes good sense because the American people want to get out of Iraq. So this is not only good policy it is also good politics, which makes for pretty typical Democratic governing strategy.

  7. Anderson says:

    Well, if the Congress passed it, Bush would veto it, right?

    And surely they don’t have the votes to override.

    So, politically, I’d say it’s not so bad as Dave suggests — the Dems get to say “oh, if only Bush hadn’t vetoed our bill,” etc. And Bush can’t very well try to fake ’em out by signing it & then complaining later … that only works with McCain-Feingold.

  8. djneylon says:

    Apparently, Sen. Obama, along with most of his cohorts in the Senate, have not carefully read the Constitution, which says Congress may declare war and the President may wage it. If we thought we were doomed to failure when the White House picked out bombing targets in Viet Nam (a Democratic President), think how bad our waging of war will be when the various Democrats in Congress start determining how to fight the war. If the poll-crazy egotists win this one, they will have succeeded in destroying a Presidency they have fought since the polls closed and Al Gore lost six years ago. When they didn’t like the vote count, they tried to change the rules. They have done everything they could for the last six years to undermine this administration and with it, this nation. I weep for our future if any of these people actually get the chance to show how the United States is afraid to defend democracy or freedom if it costs anything at all. Certainly no one will ever trust us again if we abandon the Iraqi people the way we abandoned the South Vietnamese at the behest of Congressional pacifists 30 years ago. And we can be sure the terrorists of the world will be sure we are only a paper tiger if we turn and run in Iraq, like we did in Lebanon and Somalia.

  9. Tlaloc says:

    But the plan is idiotic, too. The last thing that Democrats want to do at this point is to take ownership of a failure in Iraq, which should it be passed by both houses it surely would.

    It seems very unlikely the bill will pass a fillibuster and avoid or overcome a veto. But even if it did I’m not sure your contention would hold. Once the dem plan is in place I suspect the public will still view this as bush’s war (justifiably so in my opinion) and continue to associate the losses taken during the withdrawl as on his head.

    Pu it this way: if a kid steals a car for a joy ride and drives like a maniac does the whole thing become the cops fault when they pull him over? My guess is the public will see the dems as the cops stepping into to put an end to Mr. Bush’s wild ride.

  10. Dave Schuler says:

    Anderson, you and Tlaloc may well be right. However, where I come from it’s considered imprudent to put your political fate in the hands of someone (in this case, Bush and/or the Republican Senators) who don’t wish you well. Additionally, this scenario would appear to argue that Bush is completely without guile (which is rather different than the argument I’ve seen advanced over the last four years).

  11. Anderson says:

    Guile, sure. But I don’t see how the Dems get left holding the bag if (1) Bush signs or (2) the Repubs provide the override.

    Spin aside, of course. I’m sure Fox would lie its ass off, ditto Rush, & maybe they could make the country think that 2 + 2 = 5. It’s happened before.

  12. Triumph says:

    This type of appeasement is exactly what i expected from Barak HUSSEIN Obama.

  13. The smartest thing the Reps could do with this bill is get it onto the Senate floor for a vote as fast as possible. Force the Dems to go on record right away.