"The Obama Doctrine," March 2008:
"When Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama met in California for the Jan. 31 debate, their back-and-forth resembled their many previous encounters, with the Democratic presidential hopefuls scrambling for the small policy yardage between them. And then Obama said something about the Iraq War that wasn't incremental at all. "I don't want to just end the war," he said, "but I want to end the mind-set that got us into war in the first place."
According to Maliki, whose public (and parliament) doesn’t want U.S. troops in Iraq any longer, there’s “no doubt the U.S. forces have a role in providing training of Iraqi forces.” That’s a big change, since it’shis government that’s the obstacle to a residual U.S. troop presence. Biden seized on that, and went further. Not only will the U.S. and Iraq maintain a “robust security relationship,” but they’ll head back to the negotiating table to work out a post-2011 role for U.S. troops, “including areas of training, intelligence and counterterrorism,” Biden declared.
Pause on that for a moment. If Biden gets his way, then U.S. troops returning to Iraq next year won’t just be training their Iraqi counterparts, even if that’s how Maliki sells it to a skeptical Iraqi populace. They’ll continue to wage a war against Iraq’s lingering terrorists. (Maybe Iranian forces in Iraq, too.) It’ll be lower-key than before, but the U.S. will still be at war in Mesopotamia.
Update, 2:30: Or maybe I am brilliant! Tommy Vietor from the White House says I got the whole story wrong, misunderstood Biden & Maliki. Here's my rewritten piece:
The White House says it’s on track to remove the remaining 15,000 U.S. troops from Iraq by December 31, despite some apparent misreporting from Baghdad – which, um, we breathlessly repeated.
In a joint press appearance on Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki seemed to suggest that U.S. troops might return to Iraq in 2012. Maliki, whose government has balked at a continued presence, said that there’s “no doubt the U.S. forces have a role in providing training of Iraqi forces.” Biden seemed to go farther, talking about a “robust security relationship,” including on subjects like “training, intelligence and counterterrorism.”
But National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor tells Danger Room that the U.S. role in the war really, really will end with the New Year.
“There is no change in administration policy. All troops will be out at the end of the year,” Vietor says. There is “no resumption of negotiations” with the Iraqis about a possible residual force. ...