Obama’s Camp Lejeune Speech

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Very interesting speech by Obama today on bringing the Iraq War to a close.
Obama stated moments ago that troop levels in Iraq will be brought down to 50,000 by August 2010 — and then all forces will be removed by the end of 2011.
America’s financial crisis is driving much of this. There is just no way that Obama can keep his fiscal accounts in order with a high-cost, permanent expansion of America’s empire of military basing.
I was bothered by Obama’s commitment to increase the size of the Pentagon. He really should be waiting for a comprehensive review of America’s global commitments and basing. Adding more to an already well-resourced part of America’s global stability tool box is wrongheaded.
He mentioned Dennis Ross’ name right in line with envoys George Mitchell and Richard Holbrooke — making a kremlinological assessment of Ross’ real strength on the Obama team even more complex.
His commitment to deep diplomatic engagement on a comprehensive basis in the Middle East is exactly the right track.
More later.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

24 comments on “Obama’s Camp Lejeune Speech

  1. söve says:

    We will either find a way out of our delusions of grandeur, or we won’t. All the great generals recognized that military might is merely a short run strategy; yet here in the US military might has morphed into a long run strategy, and if one looks at US non-trust/ fiduciary programs, pretty much all the US does anymore of significance at the national level is military empire. Take away the war machine and America is nothing.

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  2. jimmy johson says:

    kill em all!!!

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  3. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Interesting blog, Bob. I’m assuming you are the host there?
    I note you too have made mention of the fact that law abiding citizens were “relieved” of their firearms while mercenaries prowled the streets carrying weapons that are banned to private ownership by federal law. I never thought I would see the day that such a thing could happen in the United States of America.
    Your tongue in cheek reference to the Crips and the Bloods strikes me as not really being so tongue in cheek, particularly as it applies to domestic terrorism. Its certainly ironic that our cities can be over-run by violent gangs enjoying membership in the hundreds of thousands, yet these lying conniving pieces of shit in Washington felt they needed to reach out to the Middle East to find a bogeyman sufficiently scary enough to bilk us out of millions of dollars with these fuckin’ scams known as “Homeland Security” and “The Global War On Terrorism”. Odds are, if you or I go down with a gunshot wound to the head, it ain’t gonna be a Muslim that did the deed. Americans are far more threatened by mexican street gangs, or the Bloods, or the Crips, than they are by some wacko Muslim slipping some anthrax into their mail. Yet here we are, seven years after 9/11, and these sleazy posturing fops have done NOTHING to actually secure the border, and gang membership continues to soar, particularly in regards to the mexican gangs, whose vast membership is comprised of a high percentage of illegal aliens.
    How much interest does Washington REALLY have in the security we enjoy in our everyday endeavors, when they spend trillions on a contrived enemy abroad, such as they did with this tinpot maniac Saddam, while ignoring the enemy that terrorizes us in our own neighborhoods? Not much, would be my guess.

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  4. Bob W says:

    While receiving a dose of criticism from progressives for his Iraq policy, the new president should nonetheless get some kudos for his unilateral troop withdrawal from another devastated, corrupt, seemingly ungovernable region that occurred this morning, albeit with little fanfare.
    Yes, like Iraq, President Obama had the resolve not to abandon New Orleans, or worse yet, go with the original Biden plan of partitioning the city into autonomous enclaves run by Crips, Fortunetellers, Latin Kings, Vampires, Bloods, Goths, and cajuns. Had the new President simply acquiesced to political pragmatism, the Big Easy almost certainly would not have healed to once again shine as the gem of the deep south. . .

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  5. erichwwk says:

    My view also, Don Bacon. In the more recent discussion of AfPak policy, only nir rosen looked at it from the perspective of the inhabitants of the country itself, rather than through the lens of delusionary US self interest.
    We will either find a way out of our delusions of grandeur, or we won’t. All the great generals recognized that military might is merely a short run strategy; yet here in the US military might has morphed into a long run strategy, and if one looks at US non-trust/ fiduciary programs, pretty much all the US does anymore of significance at the national level is military empire. Take away the war machine and America is nothing.
    Hadn’t thought of it as Schizophrenia, but that IS a pretty accurate descriptor, and applies to the financial crisis as well- the inability to see through the veil of money to what’s real. While we worship the golden calf, we can’t understand the absurdity of having folks stop doing productive things (teach kids, grow food, repair and build schools, etc) all because of some silly dogmatic ritual.

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  6. Don Bacon says:

    What I don’t see discussed here is the absolute failure of the US (read: the Pentagon) to accomplish anything sensible in the world while it continues to believe itself capable of doing so.
    Wikopedia: Schizophrenia (pronounced /ˌskɪtsəˈfrɛniə/ or /ˌskɪtsəˈfriːniə/), from the Greek roots schizein (σχίζειν, “to split”) and phrēn, phren- (φρήν, φρεν-, “mind”) is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a mental disorder characterized by abnormalities in the perception or expression of reality.

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  7. PissedOffAmerican says:

    What I don’t see discussed here is the inevitable failure of our efforts to keep the Shiites and the Sunnis from violently competing for power. We simply cannot expect to continue bribing for peace. Sooner or later we will need to curtail the expenditure, or sectarial animosity will overpower human greed.
    The discussion rambles on, as if this fragile peace between the Sunnis and the Shiite will remain the status quo. Such a likelyhood is laughable. Are we really so naive as to think we can reverse centuries of animosity in the span of two years by opening the spigot of cash?
    And what about Israel? Isn’t it in their best interests to see american troops actively engaged, and in permanent residence, on Iraqi soil, if only to block an increased Iranian influence in Iraq? As we have seen Israel do with the Palestinians, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Israel will seek to keep Iraq unstable to the degree that American troops MUST remain. As our recent withdrawal from the Durban conference on racism so clearly demonstrates, Israel still manages to successfully exert tremendous pressure on us to do its bidding, and who doubts Israel prefers a strong presence of United States military in Iraq?
    We can expect events to dictate Obama’s Iraq strategy, and history tells us we can expect events to be presented in a manner that justifies the desired policy, even if it runs counter to the pre-election marketing campaign that Obama used to slither his way into the Oval Office. One epic event, such a a political or religious assasination in Iraq, or a major attack on US interests traced back to Iraqi factions, could change the whole course of United States’ policy. To think that the Iraqi situation will remain static is ridiculous. The situation is in a constant state of fluctuation, and the only prediction that we can take to the bank is that these lying treasonous sacks of shit in Washington will pursue whatever policy they choose to, the will of the people be damned. Didn’t we learn that lesson in 2006? Didn’t these lying bastards, once before, promise to end this clusterfuck?

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  8. ... says:

    billr – keep on aiming for the center while never recognizing how far to the right the usa has gone with it’s military empire building around the globe… your rock throwing isn’t any better….

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  9. Dan Kervick says:

    For me, the crucial issue is not the precise timetable for the end of the combat operation in Iraq – 16 months or 18 months. Nor is it even the size of the residual force that will remain between the termination of the combat operation and the supposed completion of the entire Iraq mission in 2011. A residual force of 35,000 to 50,000 is indeed concerning, as are the euphemistic labels for these forces, since some of them are clearly combat forces of some kind. But that’s not central. What is central for me is what happens at the end of 2011. Are we indeed leaving, or are we staying?
    The Iraq War, as conceived by its planners in Washington, was an illegal war of aggression. Using trumped up charges of phantom threats, it was designed to overthrow an unfriendly government and replace it with one friendly to the United States. It was also designed to secure a spot for a permanent US military foothold in the region, a foothold that would then be used to scale new peaks of aggressive transformation. Those are the purposes for which the war was fought.
    Now Iraq’s policies may have been hostile to the US, but we have seen that the actual military and security threat posed by Iraq was quite minimal. No serious case can be made that the war served an acute defensive purpose. And certainly the shocking and barbarous scope of the war, the sheer scale of death, injury, destruction and disruption exceeded any legitimate bounds. The war was unjustified according to the standards of both established international law and hallowed moral tradition.
    It is good for the world that aggressive war aims fail, and be seen to fail. When the military of any country succeeds in accomplishing its aims through the use of force, and when those aims go beyond the legitimate purposes of defense against foreign aggression, the security of the world is damaged. It is damaged because the success sets an example and sends a message. The message and example are that where the peaceful pursuit of self-interested aims fails, their pursuit through violence may succeed. The entire thrust of international legal policy for a century has been the promotion if global security through the total repudiation of aggressive war.
    If the Iraq War eventuates in a permanent US military presence in Iraq, aggression will have prospered. And it will be seen by all to have prospered. That will be bad for all of us. The world will suffer for it, and the people of the United States will suffer for it. The suffering of the United States comes in two forms: one is from living in a more dangerous and violence prone world, a world in which great and near-great powers still feel free to engage in aggression; the other is from living under a government that is more deeply in love with war and martially enthused by the success of war, and is therefore much less likely to stop throwing money and young human beings into wanton military projects.
    I think I understand what Obama is up to, or thinks he is up to. He has a strategic plan for the region. To his credit, that plan seems not to be an extension of the neoconservative strategy of dynamic utopian transformation based on force. It is a plan for sustainable regional security based on resolving the chief ongoing conflict in the region, and engaging with all regional players across the board. However, Obama has apparently been convinced that as he moves forward with greater diplomatic engagement, he must make a palpable show of his continued willingness to use military force, and not create the impression that the US is in retreat. He has perhaps adopted the Dennis Ross view of “negotiations without preconditions, but with pressure.” Thus he has stepped up involvement in Afghanistan, and has stretched out the timeline in Iraq, and settled on a fairly large size for the “residual force”. They say the Iraqi elections are playing a role in his thinking. But I would not be surprised to learn that the Iranian elections are part of the thinking as well, although we can’t expect the administration to publicly acknowledge any attempt to influence Iranian domestic politics. When Obama send emissaries to begin negotiations with Iran, he wants those emissaries to enter the game with what he perceives as a strong hand.
    Obama says he is committed to being out of Iraq totally by the end of 2011. I think he is sincere about this. But I have no confidence at all that Robert Gates shares this goal. Gates was a driving force in the negotiation of the SOFA, and alluded yesterday to the escape hatch that allows the US to stay permanently if Iraq’s government requests it. My concern is that Gates will actively seek to engineer that permanent presence. A permanent presence in Iraq turns the war into a hostile imperial takeover. And as I said above, this kind of aggression should not be allowed to succeed.
    Obama has done much to cultivate good relations with the military, no doubt seeking to learn from the early souring of the relationship between the Clinton White House and the military in 1993, and Clinton’s loss of military respect and trust, losses from which he never fully recovered. Obama has appointed military people in some very high places, and he has tried to buy their support with money. As can be seen from that speech yesterday, he is eager to earn the affection and respect of the marines, and to get them to think of him as their commander in chief.
    But it concerns me greatly to see Obama flirting with taking rhetorical ownership of the Iraq war and its aims.

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  10. DonS says:

    ‘right’ is the new ‘center’ for some.

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  11. Bill R. says:

    The usual rock throwing and slogans from the marginalized far left here. It simply lends credibility to the Obama administration’s reality based policies and appeal to the American center.

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  12. DonS says:

    Let’s try that first sentence at 7:30 again:
    Obama treads a tricky path. He was “against the war”. But he is now President and must be “responsible” in ending it.

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  13. DonS says:

    Obama tread a tricky path. He was “against the war”. But he snow President and must be “responsible” in ending it.
    However, every time Obama fails to speak about the war through the lens of its corrupt origin and prosecution he gets further sucked into it’s corruptions. Every he equivocates, or enumerates the “positives” coming out of it, he gets further sucked in. Every time he honors “our brave soldiers” without noting the tragedy of their being forced to sacrifice in a corrupt war, he get’s sucked in.
    And make no mistake, at some point in our “leaving” Iraq (and will he rethink if there is a blip), violence will return on some scale, and Obama will be roundly criticized by all those now hectoring him and more. The more he get’s sucked in, the more it becomes his war, the more he clouds the reality of what has is and will likely happen, the more he loses any right to proclaim “I was against this war”. It won’t matter.

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  14. TonyForesta says:

    Iraq was, is, and always will be a crime scene!!!
    I realize it is difficult, inconvenient, if not impossible for all those who have sacrificed so much and paid so terrible a price for the bushgov’s wayward deceptive misadventure and excuse for wanton profiteering in Iraq, – but there is no answering the most basic questions without peeking into the depths of an endless murky abyss.
    Why are we fighting in Iraq?
    What are America’s military and strategic objectives in Iraq?
    What are the costs?
    How long will our warfighters be committed to Iraq?
    Who benefits from the continued US military presence in Iraq?
    What gain will poor and middle class Americans ever glean from the costly, bloody, horrorshow, and excuse for wanton profiteering in Iraq?
    What will define victory in Iraq?
    Why is Obama betraying his core campaign promises?

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  15. ... says:

    them out of iraq and put them in afgan.. quite a plan… look as if something significant is happening when in fact nothing is changing, just some ‘shifting’…

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  16. Gary says:

    While Obama gave his speech today, I kept wondering how long it’s going to take before he moves the goal posts again? No way in hell is Obama going to keep his word on this. He can’t. Too many things still need to be resolved before our troops can even begin to come home. Maybe not this year, but sometime next year, Obama will have to announce that the troops will be staying longer than anticipated.
    To get most of our troops out by August 31st, 2010 is a noble gesture, but reality is singing another tune.

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  17. PissedOffAmerican says:

    February 27, 2009
    The Silence of the Liberals
    As Obama launches “war on terrorism” II
    by Justin Raimondo
    I see that the Pentagon has reversed its old policy of refusing to allow photographs of those flag-draped coffins as our dead soldiers return from the battlefield. One wonders, however, how much interest there will be in taking and publishing such photos now that President Barack Obama is in office. One also wonders how long it will take the media to acknowledge the new quagmire we’re sinking into if and when the numbers of casualties start increasing – as they are sure to do.
    After all, Obama’s war is going to be taking place on a much larger, more difficult canvas than that of his predecessor’s, which was confined in large part to Iraq. All of Afghanistan will soon be teeming with newly-arrived US soldiers, sent there – direct from Iraq – to fulfill the President’s pledge to start fighting the “right war” in the right way, a “smart” way. Oh, these guys (and gals) are the Best and the Brightest, alright, aren’t they?
    The smarty-pants tone and style of this administration is already beginning to grate on my nerves, as they pander to their base on the symbolic issues – like the coffin question – in hopes no one will notice as they backtrack on more important matters. So far, it doesn’t seem to be working out all that well.
    Glenn Greenwald isn’t cutting them any slack on the torture brouhaha – he’s already pointed out that they’ll still be torturing people, albeit not with their own hands in some instances, and that if Guantanamo is closed, Bagram – where similar activities are known to take place – is going to be open for “business.”
    Most of the Obama-zoids are happy, however, because, after all, Keith Olbermann assures them we’ve entered the new millennium, the Dear Leader is in the White House, and all’s right with the world. But is it?
    Not by a long shot. Has anyone noticed Obama’s vaunted 16-month withdrawal-from-Iraq plan has already stretched into 19 months – and the “residual force” he kept talking about during the campaign, as if it were a mere afterthought, turns out to be 50,000 strong?
    Originally, none of those “residuals” were supposed to be combat troops – yet now we are told “some would still be serving in combat as they conducted counterterrorism missions.” You have to go all the way to the very end of this New York Times report before you discover that, according to Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell, “A limited number of those that remain will conduct combat operations against terrorists, assisting Iraqi security forces.”
    In short: we aren’t leaving.
    continues….
    http://www.antiwar.com/justin/?articleid=14319

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  18. devildog says:

    what i dont understand is why the speech was held during working ours, they actually took marines that were awaiting training from work to go fill the hall, if they wanted a full hall why not wait 3 more hours when most marines are off for the day?

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  19. brigid says:

    I agree, a masterful speech, and unifying for the country after a divisive period over Iraq. I also agree that addressing the global audience, specifically Iraqis and the people of the Middle East was beautifully done to articulate the Obama policy and shift from the Bush administration.

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  20. Monzie says:

    I thought it was an outstanding speech. I am puzzled why I haven’t heard or read any specific words of appreciation for the several minutes in which he directly addressed viewers in the global community. IMO, that was a master stroke.

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  21. Hijikata says:

    Steve, do you think that the US should abandon the stategy of being able to sustain wars on two fronts? The Iraq/Afghanistan situation, I think, has indicated we are not able to sustain even one, even with outsourcing! Given the difficulties that the Pentagon seems to have had providing adequate resources for one war (and one contiuous skirmish), do you really think that defense is alrady well resourced?

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  22. ... says:

    stopping one war – iraq and cultivating another – afgan… sorry i am not taken in by beautiful speeches…
    simple view : financial problems and making war are connected…

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  23. erichwwk says:

    Apologies for OT comment, but James Galbraith’s testimony is as refreshingly honest,clear,and on target re the financial crisis as so many are not.
    http://tinyurl.com/c6art8
    Too bad the hall was essentially empty, and it fell on mostly deft ears.
    That document, assuming we agree that it represents the nature of the problem, what works and what doesn’t (and why) might be something we could use to get our elected political agents to act responsibly.

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  24. WigWag says:

    An analysis from Steve Clemons or someone else on how the plan Obama articulated today compares to what he promised during the Campaign would be interesting.

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