Obama details his Iraq war strategy

Start U.S. pullout in 4 to 6 months, Ill. senator says

November 21, 2006|By P.J. Huffstutter | P.J. Huffstutter,LOS ANGELES TIMES

CHICAGO -- Sen. Barack Obama, the popular Illinois Democrat who is considering a run for the White House, said yesterday that the United States should start withdrawing troops from Iraq in the next four to six months, redeploy some forces to Afghanistan and bolster efforts to train Iraqi police.

Obama criticized President Bush for pushing forward with a war that "would require an occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences."

He also noted that a bipartisan congressional effort was needed to "reassert our authority to oversee the management of this war" and retain better oversight of military expenditures.

He suggested that the U.S. would benefit from improved diplomacy with Iran and Syria and that all withdrawal timetables should be tied to the advice of U.S. commanders on the ground.

"I believe that it remains possible to salvage an acceptable outcome to this long and misguided war," Obama said to a rapt audience of 1,400 at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. "But it will not be easy. For the fact is that there are no good options left in this war."

The speech was similar to one he gave here nearly a year ago. The council has become a stumping ground for politicians wanting to highlight their views on foreign policy.

Back in 2005, though, only a few hundred curious observers gathered to hear the now-45-year-old freshman senator.

"As the size of this crowd attests, the interest in hearing Sen. Obama's views is now greater, much greater," council President Marshall M. Bouton told Obama. "So is interest in your possible run for the presidency of the United States of America."

But Obama avoided addressing that possibility.

Instead, he focused on the results of the recent midterm elections, describing them as a public repeal of the White House's policies. The war had also created a dangerous culture of global isolationism among Americans, he said.

"We need to maintain a strong foreign policy, relentless in pursuing our enemies and hopeful in promoting our values around the world," Obama said.

A Harvard-educated attorney and longtime Illinois resident who practiced civil rights law, Obama rose to national prominence after delivering an electrifying keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. He won the Senate seat that November with 70 percent of the vote.

Now the junior senator has emerged as a promising presidential candidate that neither the press nor the public can get enough of.

He has been mobbed by fans while touring to promote his new book, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream. Time magazine put him on its cover, next to a headline that read, "Why Barack Obama Could Be The Next President." Oprah Winfrey said she'd vote for him - even though he hasn't announced his intention to run.

Recent polls have showed Obama following behind New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as a favored Democratic presidential nominee - edging out former Vice President Al Gore and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.

"On the plus side, Obama's a fresh face and he's lived the American dream," said Dennis Goldford, professor of political science and international relations at Drake University in Des Moines. "On the down side, it shows how thin the Democratic bench is and the old faces all have a lot of baggage."

P.J. Huffstutter writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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