NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 19, 2008

How do Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) differ on the Iraq War?  The National Journal compared and contrasted the two presidential candidates.  Below is a summary of Obama's positions on the Iraq War.

Invading Iraq:

  • Obama publicly opposed the invasion of Iraq as an Illinois state senator in 2002.
  • He has said: "I don't oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war."

Exit timetable:

  • Obama has held to a timeline of 16 months for the withdrawal of major combat brigades from Iraq.
  • Like McCain, Obama proposes leaving behind an unspecified residual force to continue targeting Al Qaeda in Iraq, protecting the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and training and supporting Iraqi security forces.
  • Because Obama has also said he might "adapt" his timeline if the situation worsens, the difference between the two candidates' positions on troop withdrawals has narrowed.
  • He expressly rejects the idea of permanent U.S. bases in Iraq.

The surge:

  • Objected to the Bush administration's decision to increase force levels in Iraq by approximately 30,000 troops beginning in January 2007.
  • Shortly after the surge was announced, he filed a bill that would have imposed an immediate troop cap.
  • Objected to the Pentagon's halting the withdrawal of combat brigades in July 2008.

Negotiating with Iran:

  • Has proposed wide-ranging negotiations with Iran to address issues ranging from Iran's meddling in Iraq and its threatening of Israel, to its support for terrorist groups and its efforts to develop a nuclear weapons program.
  • The Bush administration's policy of refusing to negotiate, he says, has only empowered Iran.

Source: "Obama on the Iraq War," in "Where They Stand," National Journal, August 30, 2008.


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