Buried on page A32 of today's New York Times (according to Tom Maguire) is word that the generals President Bush put in charge of winning the war in Iraq won't be taking Barack Obama's 16-month withdrawal timetable as gospel -- and Obama's apparently OK with that.
A new military plan for troop withdrawals from Iraq that was described in broad terms this week to President-elect Barack Obama falls short of the 16-month timetable Mr. Obama outlined during his election campaign, United States military officials said Wednesday.
The plan was proposed by the top American commanders responsible for Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus and Gen. Ray Odierno, and it represents their first recommendation on troop withdrawals under an Obama presidency. While Mr. Obama has said he will seek advice from his commanders, their resistance to a faster drawdown could present the new president with a tough political choice between overruling his generals or backing away from his goal.
The plan, completed last week, envisions withdrawing two more brigades, or some 7,000 to 8,000 troops, from Iraq in the first six months of 2009, the military officials said. But that would leave 12 combat brigades in Iraq by June 2009, and while declining to be more specific, the officials made clear that the withdrawal of all combat forces under the generals’ recommendations would not come until some time after May 2010, Mr. Obama’s target.
Transition officials said the plan was described in only general terms to Mr. Obama by Robert M. Gates, who is staying on as defense secretary, and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, when Mr. Obama met for five and a half hours with his national security team on Monday in Chicago. They said all participants had sidestepped the details of how to reconcile Mr. Obama’s timetable for withdrawing combat forces with the more extended one recommended by the generals. A transition official said that in future meetings, “the military will get a chance to articulate their preferences.”
It appears that Obama might actually be considering that he will be able to call the Iraq War "won" sometime in his first (and hopefully only) term -- a word he has assiduously avoided using.
As Victor Davis Hanson points out, Obama appears to be following a tradition of candidates bad-mouthing the president's policies only to later adopt them as his own.
But like his predecessors, the Obama administration will quickly learn that present U.S. foreign policy is mostly a result of reasonable decisions taken amid bad and worse choices. Therefore, don’t be surprised if a President Obama continues much of what we are now doing — albeit with a kinder, gentler rhetoric of “multilateralism” and “U.N. accords.”
Here's hoping that Obama governs as a centrist, and not the left-wing dreamer we saw in the campaign.