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July 29, 2007

Iraq Withdrawl Mendacity Watch

by Nicholas Beaudrot of Electoral Math

Lost in the shouting over which candidate can best pander to the Cuban exile lobby demonstrated more general election "toughness" on foreign policy as arbitrarily defined by the DC chattering class has the more effective spin machine would be more likely attempt constructive engagement with world leaders even though the nations may have huge disagreements. Hillary Clinton offered this bit of parsing on Iraq:

You know, I put forth a comprehensive three-point plan to get our troops out of Iraq, and it does start with moving them out as soon as possible.

That may be true, of course, but to use a famous phrase, it all depends on what the meaning of "our troops" is. Or, perhaps, what the meaning of "as soon as possible" is. Clinton unveiled her "Plan to End the War in Iraq as President" in a July 10th speech in Iowa. Buried towards the end of the speech is this passage:

So as we redeploy our troops from Iraq, I will not let down my guard against terrorism. I will devote the resources we need to fight it and fight it smartly. I will order specialized units to engage in narrow and targeted operations against al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations in the region.

They will also provide security for U.S. troops and personnel and train and equip Iraqi security services to keep order and promote stability in the country, but only to the extent we believe such training is actually working. I would also consider, as I have said before, leaving some forces in the Kurdish area to protect the fragile but real democracy and relative peace and security that has developed there.

Clinton does not attach a number to the size of the force left in Iraq, nor under what conditions she would remove them or reduce their mission to one similar to our 1990s objective in Saudi Arabia. This might be a reasonable position, but I humbly suggest this is not what most Democratic voters have in mind when they hear the words "get our troops out of Iraq".

Bill Richardson tried to get at this during the most recent debate when he pointed out "[t]here's a big difference between me and the Senators ... I believe we should bring all the troops home by the end of this year, in six months, with no residual forces". But rather than tackle the "residual forces" issue, Clinton a Biden pointed out the logistical difficulties of leaving Iraq in such a hurry. That's unfortunate; the country deserves more than misleading campaign platitudes when it comes to our role in Iraq.

July 29, 2007 | Permalink


the country deserves more than misleading campaign platitudes when it comes to our role in Iraq

That's true, and she is being misleading in just the way you explain, but she's also being oddly honest in pointing out that she will actually leave troops there. The most expedient thing to do, at least for the short term, would probably be to not reveal that, just do the happy talk about bringing the troops home.

Bill Richardson, meanwhile, is completely nuts in regard to Iraq. He was claiming that he would have it all settled by diplomacy, and now he claims we should get out entirely right away, while almost everyone who knows anything about it finds both positions highly unrealistic. Maybe he's saying what he believes, though.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jul 29, 2007 2:53:45 AM

First of all, you're not going to get me to agree that Hillary Clinton is the most "honest". Maybe "realistic", but that's different. "Honest" would be "Hillary Clinton Announces Three Point Plan to Reduce America's Troop Deployment in Iraq".

As for realism, the problem is that no one seems interested in fleshing out what's realistic, what the costs and risks of various scenarios are, etc. And I don't mean candidates; I mean various actors in the political-journalistic complex.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Jul 29, 2007 3:23:10 AM

What the American people want is not important. What counts is the logic of empire: notably, control of energy sources, which means military bases and large numbers of troops in key areas around the world, support for "friendly" regimes, regardless of their democratic credentials or lack thereof, plus increasing surveillance and curtailment of civil liberties at home. The neo-cons (i.e., the real reality-based community) understand this. Democrats like Hillary and Barack will sugar-coat the message, but will have to get on board to win and keep office. In the years ahead, more and more resources will have to be devoted to keeping the empire afloat: more troops, more bases, more wars. It won't be pretty.

Posted by: mijnheer | Jul 29, 2007 3:34:00 AM

Sanpete states:

"she is being misleading"

"she's also being oddly honest"

How can one be both misleading and honest?

Yes, I intentionally quoted out of context. Then, I challenged based on my sabotaged characterization of Sanpete's statement. I thought I would go Sanpete on Sanpete. Enjoy!

Nicholas, sorry I did this at the expense of your thread. In any case, you bring up a very interesting point. How can Hillary be for ending the war with out clarifying her position. In fact, when one looks closely at the statements she and her advisors are making, it becomes clear that our troops are going to be in Iraq for a long time. In the last debate she states that it is physically impossible for our troops to be withdrawn from Iraq on an accelarated time frame (less then 6 months). She wants us to believe she has studied the issue. Yet, she admits she did not read the pre-war intelligence the former Senator Bob Graham recommended. Hillary wants to be seen as one of the "mature and smart" adults after she has been wrong and lazy regarding the Iraq issue for so long.

Posted by: jncam | Jul 29, 2007 4:01:11 AM

Not trying to convince you she's the most honest, Nick, especially after agreeing with you that she's being misleading. Just pointing out that she does actually say what she'll do, when it seems she would keep mum. Saying who's being the most honest in this area would be like saying what the biggest mountain is in Iowa.

I agree about the realism gap. It's dangerous how disconnected the public discussion is from realistic analysis. None of the candidates gets a medal for that either, though Biden seems to try hardest, and Clinton does make concessions to reality.

What counts is the logic of empire: notably, control of energy sources, which means military bases and large numbers of troops in key areas around the world

I think the empire/oil control talk is overdone, mijnheer. We don't seek to control the oil (as a whole); we don't seek to control the Middle East militarily. We want to protect the flow of oil, want to protect Israel and keep the area from blowing up if possible. Whatever happens, you're probably right that it won't be pretty, but we may not be in the middle of it. Not everyone's as dumb as Bush.

I thought I would go Sanpete on Sanpete.

In your imagination, jncam. Feel free to give an example of me doing that, though, if you think you can.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jul 29, 2007 4:27:30 AM

If Richardson were a smart candidate, which he is clearly not - in fact, I'm wondering at this point if he's not just kind of dumb in general - he would make a big deal about this and try to pin Hillary and everybody else down on the "residual forces" issue.

Since all the Democratic candidates seem to agree on ending the occupation, why doesn't Richardson (or Edwards, or Obama) make the debate about who really wants to bring all our forces home, as opposed to just most of them, which seems to be Hillary's position.

Posted by: Jason G. | Jul 29, 2007 9:39:25 AM

Jason, doesn't Richardson do that all the time? I've certainly seen him do it. The problem is that he's not a frontrunner, so he's not really able to "make a big deal" and get the media to cover it obsessively like the Clinton-Obama spat.

Posted by: KCinDC | Jul 29, 2007 10:23:01 AM

Clinton's comments strike me as the usual triangulating DC speak so familiar from her husband's two terms in office. It suggests that Clinton thinks attempting a return to the pre 911 status quo in Washington is all the present political moment requires.

This is fine for voters who agree but it's a far cry from the "transformative" politics that some of her promoters have insisted she represents. Those who wish for a transformed politics will have to look elsewhere.

Posted by: WB Reeves | Jul 29, 2007 10:43:13 AM

Whatever missions the candidates believe we should continue to engage in in Iraq over the next few years, it would be nice to get some sort of ballpark estimate from each candidate of how many troops they expect to still have in Iraq in, say, June 2010, if they're elected, and if things continue to muddle downhill, but not drastically so.

So, let's hear a number, or at least a range, from each candidate, based on that assumption. 10,000? 30-45,000? 60-75,000?

I'd like to hear this from the GOP candidates too.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist | Jul 29, 2007 1:06:50 PM

I forgot to add: I'd like a pony, too.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist | Jul 29, 2007 1:07:27 PM

I hear that when Hilary's in the South, she speaks withdrawl.

Posted by: Allen Knutson | Jul 29, 2007 2:13:46 PM

What mijhnheer said. We are not leaving Iraq without a radical politics at home that most of y'all would run from.

Signed, DFH.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jul 29, 2007 2:46:34 PM

I missed Mihjneer's post but it seems a fair assessment of the grim reality underlying our current politics vis a vis Iraq.

Posted by: WB Reeves | Jul 29, 2007 2:53:20 PM

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