The Obama, and McCain approaches to the global war on terror, and Iraq are quite
different from each other. Senator McCain has been on record as a surge supporter, and has supported most of President Bush’s policies in regard to Iraq. Whereas, Senator Obama has mostly sided with Democratic party leaders on Iraq such as Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, and Vice Presidential candidate Senator Biden.

Senator Obama has criticized both Senator McCain, and Senator Clinton for supporting the initial invasion of Iraq. Obama has contended throughout the campaign that he would not have invaded Iraq in 2003, had he been Commander in Chief.

Obama has consistently not supported the surge, and McCain has been a major backer of
Bush’s surge strategy in Iraq. In regard to the surge Obama noted in July 14, 2008 Op Ed
in the New York Times that: “But the same factors that led me to oppose the surge still hold true. The strain on our military has grown, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated and we’ve spent nearly $200 billion more in Iraq than we had budgeted.”

The timetable for the phased troop reductions in Iraq is also a major difference between Obama, and McCain. McCain said on CNN May 15, 2008 that: "By January 2013, America has welcomed home most of the servicemen and -women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might be secure in her freedom. The Iraq war has been won. Iraq is a functioning democracy, although still suffering from the lingering effects of decades of tyranny and centuries of sectarian tension."

McCain is committed to maintain a massive US occupation in Iraq for another four years, even though the US troops have already suffered about 4,188 casualties in Iraq. Moreover, the Iraqification process that the Bush Administration talked about during the 2004 campaign would not be completely implemented, and instead more billions would be spent on Iraq, which would increase the length of US occupation in Iraq to 10 years, if the occupation were continued into 2013.

The Obama plan for phased troop reductions in Iraq is consistent with the Senator Clinton plan, and with the bipartisan Baker-Hamilton framework. Obama said that: “We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 — two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began. After this redeployment, a residual force in Iraq would perform limited missions: going after any remnants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, protecting American service members and, so long as the Iraqis make political progress, training Iraqi security forces.”

The Obama plan really makes a lot more sense for Iraq in terms of retraining Iraqi forces to takeover the security of their own country. Iraqi forces can be increased to levels high enough to deal with the threat of al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, and other paramilitary groups.

The surge has really only worked in some parts of Iraq, such as Anbar province, and much of the current security gains are because Maliki has brokered a cease fire with the Madhi Army. Prime Minisiter Maliki managed to broker a cease fire agreement with Moqtada al-Sadr in August of 2008, that has reduced the levels of sectarian violence.

Obama would also like to refocus US efforts upon fighting al Qaeda, and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Senator Obama noted that: “Ending the war is essential to meeting our broader strategic goals, starting in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the Taliban is resurgent and Al Qaeda has a safe haven. Iraq is not the central front in the war on terrorism, and it never has been.”

Iraq has already made sufficient political progress toward creating a stable democracy for the Iraqi Army to be trained in large enough numbers to deal with insurgency. Obama’s plan for the phased redeployment of US forces in Iraq, and a greater focus upon fighting al Qaeda in Afghanistan with more US troops, appears to be a coherent foreign policy framework for the next four years.

Todd A. Davis is a political scientist, and a freelance journalist who recently published The Global War On Terror: 9/11, Iraq, and America’s Crisis in the Middle East at Xlibris in September of 2008. His new book will be available at shortly after the elections.