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Obama Steps Up on Iraq
Published on Thursday, February 1, 2007 by The Nation
Obama Steps Up on Iraq
by Sam Graham-Felsen

"[N]o amount of American soldiers can solve the political differences at the heart of somebody else's civil war," Barack Obama said yesterday.

With his latest announcement on Iraq, Obama can now be considered the major anti-war candidate.

Obama's move could be devastating to John Edwards. Edwards has enjoyed greater netroots and (arguably) overall grassroots left support than Obama due to his economic populism and call for 40,000 to 50,000 troops to come home. But now Obama has become the first top-tier candidate to set a definite timeline for the withdrawal of the troops. And let's not forget this not-so-small fact-- he's also the only major candidate who opposed the war from the get-go.

Kos is impressed:

This isn't a wussy "stop the escalation" measure, nor some half-measure like "withdraw some troops but not all" (which appears to be the Edwards position).

Even Sirota is pleased, and that's saying something:

The fact that he's doing this is a big deal, and he should be congratulated.

Some pundits will call Obama's move a "gamble," but it seems like common sense to me. After all, American voters made it clear in 2006 that they wanted a real change in Iraq, not Stay-the-Course Lite and certainly not Stay-the-Course On Steroids.

Meanwhile, Obama already has a massive and growing youth following, and this announcement can only add to Generation Y's Obamamania. Young people are pining for something new--and now they've got more than a guy who gives great speeches about the future. Now they've got a guy who's offering a concrete policy change on the most pressing issue of their generation.

Obama's got the youth vote locked up, and with his new announcement, he may have the Netroots and the grassroots anti-war left behind him as well. These are three extremely powerful bases of support-- folks who won't simply vote, but also volunteer, blog, organize, and raise money.

It will be interesting to see how Edwards responds. For now, it seems, Obama has positioned himself as the viable candidate for the grassroots left.

Sam Graham-Felsen, a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker, writes for The Nation, is a contributor to The Notion and is co-author, with Katrina vanden Heuvel, of Sweet Victories.

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