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Waiting For Specifics on Iraq

IOWA CITY, IOWA--For all the Democratic candidates' talk about troop withdrawal, exactly how large the American presence will remain in Iraq if any of them are elected is still unclear.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has said he will pull all the troops out of Iraq, but has added he would leave Marines there to protect the United States embassy. In a speech in Iowa City today, former North Carolina senator John Edwards got more specific, saying he planned to remove all the almost all troops from Iraq except for a brigade (which could number from 3,500 to 5,000 troops) which would guard the embassy.

On the stump, Clinton suggests she would consult the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to discuss formally a withdrawal plan once in office. Barack Obama has said he would remove all combat troops by removing 1 or 2 of the brigades each month, but with more than 30,000 troops in Iraq serving in support roles, his aides have not given a specific number of how many troops he would leave in Iraq. It's just the latest issue where her rivals have claimed that Clinton is not being candid because she is looking towards the general election. Edwards spent much of a foreign policy speech slamming Clinton for a lack of candor on Iraq.

"With less than 60 days in the caucus, Senator Clinton still has not given a specific answers to specific questions," Edwards said. "How many troops will she withdraw, and when will she withdraw them? All she's said is that she will meet with her generals within two months of taking office. That's not a plan. That's not even a real promise. It's the promise of a planning meeting," he said to laughter from a crowd of more than 100 on the campus of University of Iowa.

--Perry Bacon Jr.

By Washington Post editors  |  November 5, 2007; 4:57 PM ET
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I think it is a shame how the United states is dividing itself by party. We need to unify as a country and quit fighting left vs. right. The more we fight the further we open ourselves to attack. It is time for a candidate that can cross party lines and bring us back together. Let's make this country stronger, focus on what is important, and make this the best country in the world. I'm tired of hearing the fighting, the name calling and the accusations of "red corner did this", "blue corner did that".

I would love to hear a candidate not attack his fellow candidates and stand up and say this is what i did, this is what i will do, and be the better person.

Posted by: hemmendinger | December 4, 2007 12:37 PM | Report abuse


What you want is contrary to the nature of American Presidential politics. The American system of electoral votes guarantees a winner and a loser. The US is never governed by a coalition, as in other countries which use the parliamentary system. Therefore, without the necessity to form a coalition, there's no incentive for political parties to compromise. Presidents will not govern to "bring us together" unless they are forced to do so, which is rare. Bush 1 and Bush 2 had moments when they brought the country together but, after the crisis passed, normality set in and we were back to a partisan divide.

Posted by: camstanton | November 6, 2007 1:47 PM | Report abuse

I am not supporting Hillary because I want to beat the republicans because she claims she can and I am not voting against Bush. He is not running. I'm voting for a candidate who is for something, Who wants to bring our country together after 16 years of triangulation, division, compassionate conservativism, strict constructionist, rightwing conspiracy's, and the politicos of personal destruction I want to move on. I want vote for a candidate who has integrity, who is willing to listen and acknowledge respectfully the opposition. Isn't it about time America had someone who is honest and trustworthy in their personal and private lives. A Clinton/ Giuliani race is nothing more than a millionaires Jerry Springer episode.

Posted by: TennGurl | November 6, 2007 12:56 PM | Report abuse

For those who are anti-Bush and are also intensely critical of Hillary, think about the prospect of Giuliani as President. First there would be an endless military commitment to Iraq and probably war with Iran as well. He thinks nothing of using torture. He's very happy with depriving us of our Constitutional rights to fight his paranoid war on terror. Read about his tenure as New York mayor and you see a half-crazed would-be despot. This is what the US is in store for if a Democrat doesn't win the White House. If you don't want this to happen, support Democratic Presidential candidates - don't tear them down.

Posted by: camstanton | November 6, 2007 11:37 AM | Report abuse

What is Clinton's actual plan for leaving Iraq? In the time honored tradition of politicians that recognize an issue must be addressed but lack any understanding to how to do so, Clinton calls for a study. As explained on her campaign website:

"As president, one of Hillary's first official actions would be to convene the Joint Chiefs of Staff, her Secretary of Defense, and her National Security Council. She would direct them to draw up a clear, viable plan to bring our troops home starting with the first 60 days of her Administration."

Clinton doesn't say the U.S. will begin withdrawing from Iraq in 60 days. Instead, Clinton simply asks the military and other advisers to give her a plan within two months.

This begs the question: what if Clinton's advisers repeat the mantra of the D.C. political and military establishment that Iraq is too unstable and a withdrawal of our forces will threaten U.S. interests in the region?

What is clear is that Clinton lacks confidence in her own judgment. Instead, Clinton relies upon the architects of the Iraq morass and those that have deemed the surge successful to advise her of the course of action to take in Iraq. We can expect her advisers plan for Iraq will be a hawkish plan.

How can I make this charge? Look at whom is advising Clinton today on Iraq and military affairs. Among her military advisers, as reported earlier this in the Washington Post, are Gen. John ("Jack") Keane, a former Army vice chief of staff; Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, former deputy chief of staff for intelligence; retired Lt. Gen. Donald Kerrick, who served as President Clinton's deputy national security adviser; retired Col. Andrew Krepinevich, president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments; and Michael O'Hanlon, Brookings senior fellow.

These are the persons that will form her inner circle of advisers should she become President. Let's examine each of these persons.

Jack Keane was "Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army during Iraq war planning" and at one time an outspoken in supporter of Rumsfeld. In July 2003, Keane praised Tommy Franks' war plan for the Iraq campaign as "bold and brilliant."

There never was a comprehensive plan in place to secure and rebuild the country. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who commanded our forces in Iraq, recently stated that our war plan was "catastrophically flawed [and] unrealistically optimistic."

In July 2004, Keane admitted in testimony that: "We did not see it (the insurgency) coming. And we were not properly prepared and organized to deal with it . . . . Many of us got seduced by the Iraqi exiles in terms of what the outcome would be."
Fast forward to December 2006, whom is meeting with President Bush and advocating an escalation of the war in what became known as the "surge"? Yes, the answer is Keane. He along with Frederick Kagan developed the strategy of the surge.

Recently Bill Sammon, a Washington Examiner correspondent and author of a new book titled "The Evangelical President," reported that President Bush has been sending messages to Clinton to urge her to "maintain some political wiggle room in your campaign rhetoric about Iraq." One wonders if Keane is the person serving as Bush's liaison to Clinton on Iraq.

Claudia Kennedy, another supporter of the war, was "absolutely" certain Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. In April 2003, when asked why no WMD had been discovered, she responded:

"If absolutely nothing was found after months of thorough searching, my question would be -- where was it shipped? If such weapons are not in the country, they must have been shipped out because we absolutely know they were there."

Kennedy believes that it is not our invasion of Iraq that has caused so much difficulty for the U.S. Rather, the war has been botched by President Bush. Kennedy recently made national headlines when she stated:

"I don't oppose the war. I think it's being very badly led by the civilian leadership. I have not ever heard (Clinton) say, 'I oppose the war.'"

Donald Kerrick wrote an essay last year entitled "Iraq Not Lost Yet". While calling for a review of our strategy in Iraq, Kerrick opposed those he labeled as advocating the U.S. cut and run. Such a course would lose Iraq to the extremists.

Andrew Krepinevich believes a sustained U.S. presence is crucial to the future of Iraq. The U.S. has no choice in Iraq because if we leave Iraq will descend into civil war.

In October 2005, Krepinevich published an essay criticizing the U.S. intervention in Iraq as lacking a coherent strategy which resulted in the failure of U.S. forces to defeat the insurgency or improve security.

Krepinevich believed a winning strategy for Iraq could still be developed, one that focused on providing security to Iraqis rather than hunting down insurgents. However, "victory" in Iraq will come at a steep price according to Krepinevich:

"Even if successful, this strategy will require at least a decade of commitment and hundreds of billions of dollars and will result in longer U.S. casualty rolls. But this is the price that the United States must pay if it is to achieve its worthy goals in Iraq."

This year, Krepinevich sees the surge, if successful, resulting in American forces staying "in Iraq for decades -- much as we have in Korea, for example, to ensure the security of that part of the world, we will have to have 30,000, 40,000 soldiers in Iraq, I think indefinitely."

Michael O'Hanlon is another supporter of President Bush's surge. In an Op Ed entitled "A War We Just Might Win" published in the New York Times in July 2007, O'Hanlon argued, "We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms."

After the latest Presidential debate in which Clinton, Edwards and Obama all refused to commit to withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq by 2013, O'Hanlon praised them for their "flexibility" on Iraq. "I think the Democratic position allows all three of the top people to move in the Republican direction if things move around in the next twelve months," O'Hanlon stated.

It is time for reporters media to stop touting the prowess of the Clinton political machine and return their focus to the defining issue of the 2008 Presidential campaign: the path out of Iraq for the U.S. Otherwise, Iraq may be the defining issue in 2012.

Clinton is not demonstrating the qualities of leadership we need in our next President to end the war in Iraq. She talks like a dove in Iowa and votes as a hawk in Washington, D.C. We should expect U.S. troops fighting and dying in Iraq for years to come under a Clinton Presidency.

Posted by: shcassidy | November 6, 2007 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Whom do you trust to end the Iraq war? Candidate A or B.

Candidate A pledges to end the war but has no plan to do so. Instead, Candidate A intends to ask military and diplomatic advisers to study the issue and develop a plan after taking office.

For advice on presently, Candidate A relies upon persons that believe the war has gone wrong because of poor leadership by the Bush Administration but that the decision to invade was correct. Many of these same advisers have supported the surge and see the U.S. intervention in Iraq continuing for at least another decade. When directly questioned, Candidate A refuses to commit to bringing all U.S. troops home by 2013.

Candidate B says as long as U.S. troops are stationed in Iraq the hard work of reconciliation among Iraqi factions is postponed. Candidate B has called for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq now, pledges to bring all U.S. troops (both combat and non-combat) home promptly upon taking office and has offered a plan to achieve this.

Candidate B is being advised by military and diplomatic experts that have been highly critical of the U.S. intervention in the Iraq and strongly advocate an immediate exit from Iraq.

Candidate A is Hillary Clinton; candidate B is Bill Richardson. He has been consistent throughout the campaign calling for a prompt and complete withdrawal of all American forces.

At the debate at Dartmouth College, Edwards, Clinton and Obama would not commit to withdrawing our forces by 2013 - so how can anyone say they have a specific plan to get our troops out?

Posted by: shcassidy | November 6, 2007 11:16 AM | Report abuse

BTW...I will not vote for Clinton. My choices are Biden for president and Edwards for vice pres. We cannot escape the fact that she may become the nominee.

Posted by: lindafranke1952 | November 6, 2007 11:01 AM | Report abuse

I wish John Edwards would focus on the immediate rather than taking so much of his valuable time to outline the "if come". He has so much more to offer the voters. Obama is just angry because he will never win and that is a fact just as Thompson knows he will not win. Clinton is focusing on what she believes she can do if elected not promising results when no one knows what the circumstances will be in Nov. 2008. She is not making empty promises to the voters because she knows that the voters do not forget what a candidate promises. Whoever wins the election will have the same difficulties as any other president. The advantage is for the candidate who is familiar with the hurdles. That's the one who will have the best chance of success for the people. Avoiding making promises should not be construed as lying but should be admired as being cautious. Flat-out smart.

Posted by: lindafranke1952 | November 6, 2007 10:56 AM | Report abuse

I don't know why everybody gets so defensive about criticizing billary ? Shes the one that gives them fuel for there fire , and if she was able to answer the questions truthfully ! and stop dancing around them , owe, but she can't tell you what she is thinking because shes a hypocrite and who ever pays her is how she will vote , let the auction begin and special interest will win with her !
If she has nothing to hide why is she not opening all her papers in the clinton library ? People get real , she will be a disaster for America !
Debates are for answering questions and for informing voters of there sides of issues , in an expeditious manner ! and if the others don't agree ? than criticism should be rendered if they have the balls to do so ! way to go edwards.

Posted by: twobadd | November 6, 2007 9:29 AM | Report abuse

It sounds like those that want to live with incertainty should vote for Hillary.

Posted by: xira | November 6, 2007 9:05 AM | Report abuse

Edwards is the most electable............ and also the most right.

I can only pray he wins Iowa like he is poised to do.

Posted by: river845 | November 6, 2007 8:33 AM | Report abuse

there will not be a embassy if the troups are withdrawn it will be over run

Posted by: getsix1 | November 5, 2007 10:05 PM | Report abuse

If the Democrat cannot fend for himself or herself against the Republican, than he or she should quit now.

Some of us see Edwards speaking truth about the system.

I find it sad that people who claim to be loyal Democrats despise other Democrats. I do not support Clinton or Obama, but despise neither. We are better than that. Or so I like to believe.

Let's leave the hate talk to the other side.

Posted by: citizen53 | November 5, 2007 9:46 PM | Report abuse

I'm getting so sick of John Edwards. It's obvious that HIllary and, to a lesser extent, Obama, have their eye on the general election. The Repub. candidate, probably Giulliani, is going to be a tough opponent and extreme liberal positions will not beat him. Clinton and Obama are aware of this and are trying not to give the Republicans too much to latch on to. Edwards doesn't care what positions he takes because he knows he won't be nominated. But Edwards' constant drumbeat of criticism may well ruin the chances of the Democrat who will be nominated, Hillary or Obama. So Edwards is essentially doing what Nader did in 2000 - making it possible for the right wing to win an election they should really lose. As a loyal Democrat who is sickened by the actions of the Bush administration, I despise Nader and am feeling the same way about Edwards.

Posted by: AndyfromVA | November 5, 2007 7:53 PM | Report abuse

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