This morning I talked to Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) about Senator Obama’s shifting positions on Iraq. He made a lot of great points worth repeating here.
Initially, I asked him what he thought had brought about all of Obama’s policy shifts on Iraq. He said, as with all campaigns, Obama built his campaign around certain assumptions and then formed his policy positions from those assumptions. It’s very obvious that Obama centered his Iraq policy around the idea that the surge would fail. From there, he built his framework and positions. Now he is seeing the whole thing crumble around him as the surge worked.
What strikes me about the situation is that Obama bet against the troops and is now having to scramble and catch up to reality. Nonetheless, he is still forming his positions without really even talking to the military. I asked Senator Burr what he thought would come of Senator Obama’s meeting with General Petraeus. “I think he will probably ignore what General Petraeus tells him,” Senator Burr replied.
He then went on to contrast the candidates in their handling of Iraq. “Senator McCain’s definition of leaving Iraq is victory,” Senator Burr said. “[That means] Iraqis being able to handle their own security and to have a functional democracy that resembles, not ours, but theirs. Senator Obama has defined leaving as at any point he chooses irrespective of the Iraqis’ ability to maintain law and order.”
This, Senator Burr and I agree, is flawed because of Iran. “Senator Obama sees a disconnect between Iraq and Iran, yet those of us who are charged with the intelligence responsibilities in the Senate have continued to see Iran’s role in killing Americans while we’ve watched Iran’s nuclear proliferation continue at a pace that is a alarming to the rest of the world. To ignore that leaving Iraq prematurely increases Iran’s hand is just blind to the reality,” Senator Burr told me.
Then Senator Burr made a point I have not heard anyone else make, but I think is one of the most solid points on Obama’s Iraq policy and war policy in general. He said, “Senator Obama potentially puts more U.S. soldiers in jeopardy than he takes out of harms way by blindly setting goals that, quite frankly, if he talked to the military, are not as easily achieved as he thinks.”
Senator Burr also engaged me on the subject of energy. He said Congress really does need to move aggressively to increase domestic energy production. He also said Congress needs to begin working with the auto industry and others to help them transition and develop technologies quickly, including better electric cars. Right now, by doing nothing, Congress is hurting consumers and businesses.