It’s hard not to take a glass-half-empty attitude toward President Obama’s Iraq speech today — especially when John McCain is praising his policy and prominent Democrats are criticizing it.
Obama’s speech, delivered to Marines at Camp Lejeune, will leave as many as 50,000 US troops in Iraq long after August, 2010. Said Obama:
As I have long said, we will retain a transitional force to carry out three distinct functions: training, equipping, and advising Iraqi Security Forces as long as they remain non-sectarian; conducting targeted counter-terrorism missions; and protecting our ongoing civilian and military efforts within Iraq. Initially, this force will likely be made up of 35-50,000 U.S. troops.
McCain was soberly gleeful, and he took a shot at antiwar Democrats in Congress:
The President’s plan, as it was briefed yesterday, is one that can keep us on the right path in Iraq. I worry, however, about statements made by a number of our colleagues indicating that, for reasons wholly apart from the requirement to secure our aims in Iraq, we should aim at a troop presence much lower than 50,000.
And McCain added:
I believe that the administration should aim to keep the full complement – 50,000, as briefed by Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen – and not succumb to pressures, political or otherwise, to make deeper or faster cuts in our force levels.
The Washington Post rounded up comments from disappointed and concerned Dems, noting that only Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois immediately praised Obama’s plan, and adding:
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) echoed the worries of other Democrats who want a faster and more complete withdrawal, saying: “I do think we have to look carefully at the numbers that are there and do it as quickly as we can.” Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) issued a statement saying he is “concerned” about the level of troops that would remain in Iraq. And Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) said he would “await the justification” as to why the slower pace is necessary.
Marc Lynch, one of the more astute analysts on Iraq, writes on his Foreign Policy blog that Obama’s plan — which apparently will leave most combat forces in place until after the Iraqi national elections — will force Obama to rush the withdrawal of those forces hurriedly in just a few months to meet the August, 2010, deadline: