Comprehensive and eloquent, though not unique -- it was not intended to be -- Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) on Monday laid out his vision of how the U.S. should proceed in Iraq.
Obama, mulling a 2008 White House run, does not believe that the U.S. can export democracy at the end of a gun, a conclusion rooted in the deaths of thousands in Iraq. It is a premise that President Bush may only now be willing to consider because the Republicans lost control of Congress in an election that served as a repudiation of Bush's Iraq war.
Obama's staff asked the Chicago Council of Global Relations on Nov. 1 to book a speech -- before the midterm elections turned over control of Congress to the Democrats, but after the freshman senator signaled he may be a presidential contender.
Major candidates put down their benchmarks, and this was Obama's Iraq manifesto.
As soon as the Democrats take control in January, they will try to figure out the best options to change the failed Iraq policies of the Bush White House.
Obama is on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and incoming chairman Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) -- already a 2008 White House contender -- has an extensive Iraq agenda planned. The Democratic leaders are basically in agreement on key elements -- arguing, as does Obama, for phased withdrawal of U.S. troops and engagement with neighboring countries.
Biden is suggesting that Iraq create strong regional governments under a federal umbrella. Obama said, "That can be explored, but I don't think it should come from the United States."
Obama was never a throwback peacenik. Rather, the notion that Iraq would "quickly and easily" become a "flourishing democracy" was always an "ideological fantasy."
Now, with no "good options left in this war," Obama and the Democrats are trying to get U.S. soldiers out of Iraq without leaving the country in a civil war. With Democrats in power and Obama perhaps casting himself as a commander in chief, their rhetoric will soon have to be translated to a new reality.