It has been clear that the anti-war left is quite angry with the establishment of the Democratic Party. Today, Barack Obama tried to rally the anti-war left to his side. He wants to withdraw combat troops. From USA Today’s blog:

"The best way to protect our security and to pressure Iraq’s leaders to resolve their civil war is to immediately begin to remove our combat troops. Not in six months or one year — now," Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama plans to say this afternoon, according to excerpts sent to reporters this morning by his campaign.

What does combat troops mean? Earlier in the year, I was told by an Obama staffer that their plan invovled about 100k troops staying in Iraq. General Patraeus has a picture (that plenty have pointed out has problems). But in that picture, "Leading" maps approximately on to "combat troops".  Perhaps about half of the 170k in Iraq now. So Obama is proposing to start removing troops now… And stopping at 100k.

How different is that really from the Patreaus plan?

On a deeper level, what is the anti-war left going to do when they realize that even the anti-war top-tier candidate is closer to Bush than the anti-war left? While the Republicans have plenty of problems going into 2008, the Democrats have a big one. They are continuously out of touch with their base on Iraq.

On a deeper level, it is going to be harder and harder to tell the difference between Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Mitt Romney on these issues, as Jim Geraghty has pointed out. If Romney is the nominee, which is, at least, very plausible, what are the Democrats going to do if they can’t differentiate on Iraq?

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7 Comments

neil · September 12, 2007 at 12:58 PM

Is this for real? You want to know how different it is really?

Obama wants to “immediately begin to remove our combat troops. Not in six months or one year — now.” Petraeus wants to eventually begin to remove some combat troops starting no sooner than six months from now and possibly later.

That’s pretty different, if you ask me.

sampo · September 12, 2007 at 1:30 PM

“If Romney is the nominee, which is, at least, very plausible, what are the Democrats going to do if they can’t differentiate on Iraq?”

Americans have more faith in Dems on every issue except the war on terror/national security. When Chris Wallace essentially accused Romney of being to the left of Clinton on Iraq he didn’t fully reject it. Bottom line, if Clinton and Romney’s Iraq plans are the same, Hillary wins. Let alone if Romney truly is to the left of her.

eye · September 12, 2007 at 1:38 PM

The Petraeus proposal is to withdraw troops too.

My point is that “combat troops” is a very limited number. And he has made it clear that he is totaling a pretty small number of people.

neil · September 12, 2007 at 1:51 PM

On that Petraeus chart it appears that over 100,000 troops are in combat roles. Hardly a ‘limited number.’ And even granting that point, “begin to withdraw troops now” is fundamentally different from “do not begin to withdraw troops until later.”

I take your point that neither of these two options overlap with “remove all troops soon” which is what the anti-war left wants, though. I just don’t think it’s going to make much of a difference.

eye · September 12, 2007 at 1:59 PM

My point is a political one. I don’t think that, in the end, if Romney is the nominee, that is going to be that much of a difference from Romney.

McCain and Giuliani are different. And God only knows where Thompson is.

eye · September 12, 2007 at 2:53 PM

I should add that force protection will require more MPs. So some combat forces will be replaced by MPs.

neil · September 18, 2007 at 8:27 AM

As it turns out, it goes beyond not being in touch with their base: they are openly contemptuous of their base. Somehow I just can’t visualize John Boehner telling a blogger that he’s mad at the base because they keep asking for lower taxes.

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