Thursday, March 15, 2007


Double Down on Iraq

Tom Maguire, guest-blogging at Instapundit, links to a the New York Times interview with Senator Hillary Clinton, in which she suggests that up to 75,000 US troops may remain in Iraq beyond 2008 under her plan for Iraq.

Two stunning paragraphs open the Times report:

WASHINGTON, March 14 — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton foresees a “remaining military as well as political mission” in Iraq, and says that if elected president, she would keep a reduced military force there to fight Al Qaeda, deter Iranian aggression, protect the Kurds and possibly support the Iraqi military.

In a half-hour interview on Tuesday in her Senate office, Mrs. Clinton said the scaled-down American military force that she would maintain would stay off the streets in Baghdad and would no longer try to protect Iraqis from sectarian violence — even if it descended into ethnic cleansing.

Maguire notes some initial reactions:

Ahh! Let's hear thunder from the left - Matt Stoller of MyDD says "Wow... This is a very dangerous roadmap for the Democrats.

The Agonist tells us that "Democrats will now have a clear choice between a pro-war candidate and candidates who are clearly for ending the war.

For lightning from the right, Captain Ed Morrissey describes Hillary's willingness to have US troops stand back during a genocide as "abysmal, cynical, and completely self-serving"...

Maguire himself notes this passage form the Times article:

Mrs. Clinton has said she would vote for a proposed Democratic resolution on Iraq now being debated on the floor of the Senate, which sets a goal of withdrawing combat forces by March 31, 2008. Asked if her plan was consistent with the resolution, Mrs. Clinton and her advisers said it was, noting that the resolution also called for “a limited number” of troops to stay in Iraq to protect the American Embassy and other personnel, train and equip Iraqi forces, and conduct “targeted counterterrorism operations.”

(Senator Barack Obama, a rival of Mrs. Clinton, has said that if elected president, he might keep a small number of troops in Iraq.)

You have to give Hillary Clinton, or at least whatever trusted advisors are responsible, credit for nerve. I hesitate to commend her further, given her record, but the new reports on her plan for Iraq are just short of stunning to the degree she charges rightward of her left-leaning political base.

I think somebody at Hillary Central has decided that she needs to put one awfully noticeable stake in the ground. She’s decided that the situation in Iraq will remain a critical national security issue, no matter who gets elected in 2008. And she’s said it just about as plainly as she can, and will take a tremendous beating from her base. She’s already getting assailed by conservative, pro-war bloggers such as Ed Morrissey.

Sen. Clinton must have calculated that she’s taken as much damage as she will for her pro-war votes and positions thus far, and however the surge goes, there’s no more left side downside than she’s already suffered. Either that, or she’s decided Iraq is looking better after all. Or, now that Democrats control Congress, at least one key Democrat has decided that the party will be finally willing to get behind our troops in Iraq. (The “we’ll never support the war until we can run it our way” philosophy.)

How that squares with actual Democrat bills in both houses of Congress is anybody’s guess. But Sen. Clinton has decided that Iraq stays in the mix beyond 2008.

She may call 75,000 troops limited all she wants, but I’m sure Sen. Obama’s idea of limited and Sen. Clinton’s are orders of magnitude apart.

From a practical standpoint, it is entirely possible that Coalition forces could effectively continue ongoing peacekeeping, security, and counterterrorism operations that have been the bulk of our operations in Iraq since 2004, with 75,000 troops. This assumes, of course, either that Iraqi Security Forces will successfully secure Baghdad and other hot spots, or that US forces will, as Sen. Clinton foresees, “no longer protect Iraqis from sectarian violence.”

Either way, Hillary Clinton just doubled down on her political stake in the war in Iraq.

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