The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Disentangling Hillary’s Position On Iraq, And The Troops Who Will Remain


So there was a time – say, much of 2005 and 2006 – when I had some level of respect for Senator Hillary Clinton for her stance on Iraq, supremely unpopular with the base of her party.

When a presidential candidate is asked “As president, would you use the doctrine of pre-emptive strikes on threats?”, there is only one honest answer. That answer is, “maybe.” During that presidency, the commander-in-chief may get a chance to hit a terrorist group or nation planning a strike on the United States; surely no leader would insist that we let our enemies “throw the first punch” so that our response will be justified as purely a reaction. Then again, maybe those circumstances never arise; perhaps we never get good enough intelligence on the location of the threat, or we don’t learn that the danger is coming our way until it’s too late. Only a president who can see the future can say with 100 percent certainty whether he or she would ever use a pre-emptive strike.

So when Hillary refused to denounce the mission in Iraq, she seemed to be one of the few Democrats looking at the use of military force as if she might actually be in the Oval Office someday, and might need to use it herself.

But the vision she outlined in the New York Times interview seems to entail the worst of both worlds. U.S. troops would remain in Iraq, but would stand aside if a genocide occurred.

She also seems to deliberately ignore the change in tactics that accompanied the “surge.”

But while Mrs. Clinton has criticized Mr. Bush’s troop reinforcements as an escalation of war, she said in the interview, “We’re doing it, and it’s unlikely we can stop it.”

“I’m going to root for it if it has any chance of success,” she said of Mr. Bush’s plan, “but I think it’s more likely that the anti-American violence and sectarian violence just moves from place to place to place, like the old Whac a Mole. Clear some neighborhoods in Baghdad, then face Ramadi. Clear Ramadi, then maybe it’s back in Falluja.”

Clear and hold, folks, clear and hold. The whole point is to no longer play “whack-a-mole.” Note this interesting, honest, some-good-news-some-bad report from Spencer Ackerman, a vocal critic of the Iraq war:

That’s the New Baghdad Security Plan for you. The MP Company I embedded with this week is almost uniformly enthusiastic about the diminished number of sectarian murders discovered in its west Baghdad sector. Over the last 45 days — roughly since the time Prime Minister Maliki put the plan into effect — the number of bodies showing up at the typical dumping grounds have dwindled into the single digits, and for the first time in memory, some days pass without any being discovered at all. Even better, during my ride-alongs and patrols with the company, their Humvees didn’t even take small arms fire. Nearly everywhere in western Baghdad is a maze of cement jersey barriers and concertina wire, with Iraqi Army, Police and National Police units manning ubiquitous checkpoints. “Having momentum on your side is important,” says Captain Rob McNellis, the commander of the 57th MP Company, “and that’s what we feel right now.”

And yet the larger bombings persist. East of the Tigris, in Sadr City, the renewed presence of U.S. forces have been as yet unable to stop the sort of car bombs that exploded near Saleh’s office this morning. Last week, during the end of the Ashura holiday, 18 Shiites were killed in the volatile neighborhood. As I made my way to the Green Zone press center this afternoon, the chief military spokesman, Major General William Caldwell IV, stated that the persistence of “high-profile car bombs” would receive invigorated U.S. attention. U.S. and Iraqi troops are sparing no precautions — I witnessed drivers pulled over at numerous checkpoints due to even vague suspicions of potential car bombs; and during one of my ride-alongs, the Iraqi Police discovered and disabled a VBIED thanks to a tip — but commanders are quick to invoke the military cliché that the enemy has a vote.

Is the surge working like gangbusters? Nope. Does it seem to be making progress? So far, yes.

Hillary also invokes “regional diplomacy,” even though I think it’s very hard to imagine Iran and Syria wanting the same thing we do in Iraq. Iran wants a Shia-dominated satellite state and doesn’t give a hoot about pluralism, civil rights, stability, etc.

Anyway, needless to say, for very different reasons, the lefty blogs are up in arms. (Look upon the Democratic nominee and weep, antiwar bloggers! Bwa-ha-ha! Okay, I just had to get that out of my system.)

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson


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