Michael E. O'Hanlon, a Democratic defense analyst at the Brookings Institution who has been an outspoken supporter of the war in Iraq, said he could not believe that Obama would put such a definitive timeline into print before a trip to Iraq, where he is to consult with Iraqi leaders and U.S. commanders.
"To say you're going to get out on a certain schedule -- regardless of what the Iraqis do, regardless of what our enemies do, regardless of what is happening on the ground -- is the height of absurdity," said O'Hanlon, who described himself as "livid." "I'm not going to go to the next level of invective and say he shouldn't be president. I'll leave that to someone else."
The good news is I think we can say for sure that O'Hanlon won't be getting any jobs in the Obama administration. The bad news is, well, I dunno what it is. You can see the Armchair Generalist for more on the specific points.
I'll just note that any time a politician offers a medium-term plan -- 16 month withdrawal timeline, treaty to reduce global carbon emissions, health care reform, whatever -- you can make it sound absurd by saying it would be crazy to stick with the plan under absolutely any circumstances. Maybe a race of alien lizards will land in Mosul and commence their program of world conquest, in which case it would be odd to stick with the 16 month withdrawal timeline and I assume John McCain would revisit his plan to kick Russia out of the G-8 in the interests of human solidarity. But under a range of realistically likely sets of "facts on the ground" a timeline for a phased withdrawal of forces from Iraq would improve the strategic context in which we're operating and free up resources for use on other problems.
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