This strikes me as an obvious distinction:
I've watched this campaign unfold pretty closely. And I've listened to Obama's position on Iraq. He's been very clear through this year and last on the distinction between strategy and tactics. Presidents set the strategy -- which in this context means the goal or the policy. And if the policy is a military one, a President will consult closely with his military advisors on the tactics used to execute the policy.
This is an elementary distinction the current occupant in the White House has continually tried to confuse by claiming that his policies are driven and constrained by the advice he's given by his commanders on the ground. There's nothing odd or contradictory about Obama saying that he'll change the policy to one of withdrawal of American combat troops from Iraq with a specific timetable but that he will consult with his military advisors about how best to execute that policy.
But it also remains true that a withdrawal longer than sixteen months because we want to preserve as much of the security gains of the past few months is nonetheless an adjustment. Of course it's an adjustment. I would hope there is an adjustment. Any potential president who is uninterested in the facts on the ground in calibrating his Iraq policy would be ... another George W. Bush. And the brilliance of this is that Obama's trip to Iraq and statements thereafter will be parsed and examined and focused on like no other. This campaign remains all about him. And in the short and long run, that's less desperately needed oxygen for McCain.
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