Bret Stephens, in today's Wall Street Journal online, engages in some insightful speculation on what Senator Obama's plan to end the war in Iraq may entail. He bases his prognostication on a March 2008 paper entitled "Stay on Success: A Policy of Conditional Engagement," which was written for a center-left think tank, the Center for a New American Security, by by Colin H. Kahl, who runs Senator's Obama's working group on Iraq, and on the Senator's own remarks. The salient points of Senator Obama's policy would include, in his own words: (1) "[making] sure that our troops are safe and that Iraq is stable" (Stephen's emphasis), and (2) the opinion of "the commanders on the ground." His plan would also include a "residual force" of U.S. troops remaining in Iraq after the withdrawal of the bulk of American forces.
Mr. Kahl's paper is useful in assessing the size of the residual force that Senator Obama may envision. Mr. Kahl suggests that what is needed is an "overwatch group" of between 60,000 and 80,000 soldiers. As Bret Stephens points out, Mr. Kahl's own preferences track closely with those of none other than Gen. David Petraeus, who introduced the phrase "overwatch" in congressional testimony last September.
If Mr. Kahl's views reflect the current "refined thinking"on Iraq of Senator Obama, then the Obama secret plan to end the war differs little if any from the current policy, developed by General Petraeus, backed by Senator John McCain, and adopted at the time of the "surge" by the George W. Bush Administration.
I don't know whether to feel relief that Senator Obama, if elected, will not do anything rash and reckless; or suspicious and concerned, because what Sentaor Obama in fact may really have in mind is the "unconditional deployment" that his own advisor, Mr. Kahl rejects as inadequate and likely to lead to a resurgent Sunni insurgency; or just puzzled and exasperated over what all the hoopla over Senator Obama's "policy of change" for Iraq has been about. If Stephens is right, then poor Senator Clinton, as well as the Left Wing of the Democratic Party, have been the victim of a smooth-talking, three-card Monte dealer from Chicago.