Rare Clinton Candor on Iraq

You may not like what she's saying, but I believe it's actually her real military thoughts on the matter of Iraq and what will happen should she be elected president. It's a clear strategy, whether you agree with it or not.
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When Hillary decided an apology wasn't a road she could travel, we got this statement.

"If we in Congress don't end this war before January 2009, as president, I will." - candidate Hillary Clinton

I never believed it. Why? Because no one can end this war on a dime. If they could, Murtha would be House majority leader and Pelosi would be getting a clean bill out of the House, instead of some Blue Dog drivel. As for the Senate, Reid isn't going to touch the funds, so Iraq will be an '08 reality.

The other issue was that I thought her idea to collapse Iraqi funds if they're not making progress was a horrendous strategy. However, I don't think anyone believes our military presence in Iraq will evaporate in '09. That's why the campaign statement she made at the top was silly to say from the start. There's no way, if you look at Clinton's evolution on Iraq, this is where she'd landed. No evidence to support it. Wishful thinking.

But today in The New York Times, what we're actually getting is a rare bit of candor from Senator Clinton. You may not like what she's saying, but I believe it's actually her real military thoughts on the matter of Iraq and what will happen should she be elected president. It's a clear strategy, whether you agree with it or not.

While Mrs. Clinton declined to estimate the size of a residual American troop presence, she indicated that they might be based north of Baghdad and in the western Anbar Province.

"It would be fewer troops," she said. "But what we can do is to almost take a line north of -- between Baghdad and Kirkuk, and basically put our troops into that region the ones that are going to remain for our antiterrorism mission; for our northern support mission; for our ability to respond to the Iranians; and to continue to provide support, if called for, for the Iraqis."

Mrs. Clinton described a mission with serious constraints. "We would not be doing patrols," she added. "We would not be kicking in doors. We would not be trying to insert ourselves in the middle between the various Shiite and Sunni factions. I do not think that's a smart or achievable mission for American forces." ... ..

Clinton Sees Some Troops Staying in Iraq if She Is Elected

For some time many people have been talking about taking our troops out of Baghdad and from the middle of the sectarian violence, but having them on the outskirts in case anything erupted. That presumes a very stark reality: the weak central government in Baghdad will continue to be incompetent and feckless. Based on all evidence the last years I think that assessment is correct. So, the first order of business is make our troops accessible, but invisible, though that's going to be very tough.

Let's note, however, that the issue of permanent bases has not been addressed by anyone on either side of the aisle. We must not keep football fields of U.S. military bases in Iraq. Period. Someone has to come to grips with this at some point, but it's likely not going to be during the campaign unless someone asks the question in a debate. Stay tuned.

The "prevent Iran from crossing the border and trying to have too much influence in Iraq" is something everyone is saying and it's just annoying. Farsi is spoken in southern Iraq, okay? This is your standard ode to AIPAC.

Here, however, is the lede: In a half-hour interview on Tuesday in her Senate office, Mrs. Clinton said the scaled-down American military force that she would maintain in Iraq after taking office 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.

Ethnic cleansing is unacceptable, but with our troops inside Iraq it's also a canard. Sectarian violence is not ethnic cleansing, but talk about driving the point home. Shorter Clinton: U.S. forces will not get in the middle of a civil war on my watch. Period.

Military experts weigh in, too.

... Senator Clinton's proposal is also likely to stir up debate among military specialists. Some counterinsurgency experts say the plan is unrealistic because Iraqis are unlikely to provide useful tips about Al Qaeda operatives if American troops curtail their interaction with the Iraqi public and end their efforts to protect Iraqi neighborhoods. But a former Pentagon official argued that such an approach would minimize American casualties and thus make it easier politically to sustain a long-term military presence that might prevent the fighting from spreading throughout the region.

Shorter Clinton, one more time: No regional war on my watch. The goal is to keep the Saudis, Egyptians and other Sunni nations out of Iraq.

But make no mistake about it, Clinton gets the bottom line.

"Look, I think the American people are done with Iraq. ... .." - candidate Hillary Clinton

This is a sober, mature lay out of her view of reality on Iraq from candidate Clinton. Will people like it? Frankly, it's unlikely anyone will recognize it, because it's not very often we get any modicum of transparency from her. Senator Clinton would do well to make greater efforts at candor in the future. Both Obama and Edwards speak a lot plainer. Could it be she's rising to their challenge? Regardless, it's a step in the right direction for Clinton on openness. Whether you agree with her or not is another matter entirely.

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