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Democrats' Split Personality on Iraq

Democrats weighing a 2008 presidential run appear to be moving in two directions when it comes to the difficult issue of setting a timetable for drawing down the U.S. military presence in Iraq.

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D) used a Monday speech before the Asia Society in New York City to reject the idea of setting a firm timeline for U.S. troops to begin leaving Iraq. "To set an arbitrary deadline or specific date is not appropriate," Warner said.

That view places Warner in the same camp with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), the most prominent Democrat weighing a 2008 run.  To date, Clinton has refused to propose or advocate for a specific withdrawal date.  Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh (D) has also avoided calls for a date-certain pullout, although both he and Clinton backed recently supported a Democratic-sponsored resolution calling for President Bush to provide a timetable for drawing down the U.S. presence in Iraq.

The other camp is represented by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.). Feingold was the first prominent Democrat to advocate a drop-dead deadline for troops to leave Iraq, and Kerry, the party's 2004 nominee, followed with his own plan earlier this fall.

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards (D) has called his vote for the 2002 resolution authorizing military action against Iraq a "mistake" and advocated a less specific withdrawal to begin after the Dec. 15 Iraqi elections. Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, too, has not urged a specific date for withdrawal but said he expects all 150,000 American troops to be out of the country by the start of 2007.

The question now is how do Democrats seeking their party's presidential nomination go about appeasing the party's base on the Iraq issue? Is it enough to be a vocal and regular critic of the war, like Clinton, Warner and Bayh?  Or does a candidate need to advocate a specific (and quick) date by which troops need to begin withdrawing from Iraq in order to win plaudits (and support) from the base?

For another perspective, make sure to read the Post columnist David Broder's Sunday column on Democrats' positioning on Iraq -- "Signs of an Iraq Policy."

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 29, 2005; 4:15 PM ET
Categories:  Democratic Party , Eye on 2008  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: '08 Primaries: N.H. Democrats Make Their Case
Next: New Hampshire vs. The Party?


Hey "getaclue":

Why don't you use your REAL name??? Someone as intelligent as you should let the world know who you are. You're not SCARED are ya????

Posted by: David Piper | December 7, 2005 9:14 PM | Report abuse

It must require extreme arrogance to dismiss any and all discussion on an issue of such importance. Your analogy is ridiculous, your explanation does not exist,and somehow I'm not surprised. Just stay the course-what an enlightened,patriotic citizen you must be.

Posted by: Note to Get a Clue | December 7, 2005 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Lieberman is not running for president in 2008. His "Joe-mentum" ran out.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | December 1, 2005 12:45 AM | Report abuse

Here are some more facts for you fools out there:

No blood for cars!

Posted by: GetaClue | November 30, 2005 11:49 PM | Report abuse

Yee gads, you mention Senator Evan Bayh...not there's anything wrong with that!!!!.... but completely ignore General Wesley Clark who certainly is a viable candidate for 2008. General Clark was totally against the war from the beginning and testified as such before the House Armed Services Committee in September 2002 along with the Bush favorite neocon, Richard Perle. Clark and Perle again appeared before the same Committee in April 2005 where it was proven that everything Clark predicted about the Iraq invasion was right on. To this day he is traveling across the country speaking out and outlining his strategy about Iraq. It doesn't sound like you're paying attention but apparently the Bush Administration is as a lot of what Bush's new "plan for winning the war in Iraq" is right out of General Clark's playbook.

I see you didn't mention Joe Lieberman...or does he no longer qualify as a Democrat?

Posted by: westieforclark | November 30, 2005 6:11 PM | Report abuse

A friend of a co-worker, who is a high level democratic media consultant (worked for edwards), just started this blog to start a discussion/brainstorm on political communication strategies for candidates in the midterm. Check it out and pass it along to fellow junkies who are knowledgable and intelligent:

Posted by: BillDC | November 30, 2005 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Great new forum for political junkies:

Posted by: NYCPol | November 30, 2005 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Another good article for you to read Mr. Cilizza!,news,70568,2.html

Bush's Exit Strategy, Meet Wesley Clark's

General: Make friends, plug borders, get out
November 30th, 2005 10:56 AM

Editor's note:
So President George Bush has a new plan for winning the war, the 35-page "Our National Strategy for Victory in Iraq."

And Hillary Clinton may be feeling the need for one, too.

Earlier this fall, General Wesley Clark, a 2004 presidential contender, gave a Washington, D.C. crowd a few pointers for getting U.S. troops out of Iraq.


Posted by: Juliette | November 30, 2005 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I am always curious about why the press feels compelled to try to parse out Democrats position on Iraq or other key issues of the day. If they are elected officials they have a voting record so we already know their position.

The Republican Party was elected to run the executive and legislative branches and have essential control of the judicial branch. So, it is their job to make policy and be accountable for the results. Democrats should, and do, voice their position on issues but it is of little value to develop detailed policy proposals that will never get a fair hearing in the governmental process or in the press. I think the Republicans have been quite forthcoming in terms of policy proposals but sorely lacking when it comes to accountability for results.

Posted by: Person for change | November 30, 2005 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Hey Chris,

To be fair, why dont you write your next column about REPUBLICANS with conflicting views on the war.

Maybe Crazy Politico can help you.

Posted by: FairAndBalanced? | November 30, 2005 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Press Charges Against Bush 4 International War Crimes, you forget, that the invasion of Iraq can actually be called an extension of the never ended (but legal) 1991 Gulf War. Remember that one, 17 UN resolutions Iraq was to comply with, but failed to. Based JUST on those resolutions, the 1991 vote for war, and the UN Security Council vote in 2003, the US did have the right to invade Iraq.

So get over it.

Posted by: crazy politico | November 30, 2005 7:51 AM | Report abuse

e-mailed Nov.30, 2005

Thank you for your question to the U.S. Department of State web site.
Your question has been received and we are working on an answer for

Question Reference #051130-000030
Summary: President Bush Criminal War Crimes
Category Level 1: Patterns of Global Terrorism
Date Created: 11/30/2005 02:48 AM
Last Updated: 11/30/2005 02:48 AM
Status: Unresolved

Discussion Thread
Customer - 11/30/2005 02:48 AM
As citizen of the united states I Deborah Dugger want to press charges aginst President George Bush for International War Crimes :
1. Each of the following acts is recognized as a crime:

(a) Crimes against Peace. Initiation of invasions of other countries and wars of aggression in violation of international laws and treaties, including but not limited to planning, preparation, initiation or waging a war of aggression, or a war of violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, or participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing.

(b) War Crimes. Atrocities or offenses against persons or property constituting violations of the laws or customs of war, including but not limited to, murder, ill treatment or deportation to slave labour or for any other purpose, of civilian population from occupied territory, murder or ill treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.

(a) Crimes against Humanity. Atrocities and offenses, including but not limited to murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, imprisonment, torture, rape, or other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds whether or not in violation of the domestic laws of the country where perpetrated.

(d) Membership in categories of a criminal group or organization declared criminal by the International Military Tribunal.

2. Any person without regard to nationality or the capacity in which he acted, is deemed to have committed a crime as defined in paragraph 1 of this Article, if he was (a) a principal or (b) was an accessory to the commission of any such crime or ordered or abetted the same or (c) took a consenting part therein or (d) was connected with plans or enterprises involving its commission or (e) was a member of any organization or group connected with the commission of any such crime or (f) with reference to paragraph 1 (a) if he held a high political, civil or military (including General Staff) position in Germany or in one of its Allies, co-belligerents or satellites or held high position in the financial, industrial or economic life of any such country.

3. Any persons found guilty of any of the crimes above mentioned may upon conviction be punished as shall be determined by the tribunal to be just. Such punishment may consist of one or more of the following:

(a) Death.

(b) Imprisonment for life or a term of years, with or without hard labor.

(c) Fine, and imprisonment with or without hard labour, in lieu thereof.

(d) Forfeiture of property.

(e) Restitution of property wrongfully acquired.

(f) Deprivation of some or all civil rights.


Posted by: Press Charges Against Bush 4 International War Crimes | November 30, 2005 3:33 AM | Report abuse

Here's an article on Iraq that's informative and not about playing parlor politics.

Take notes Mr. Cilizza, you could do way better!

Rolling Stones Dec 1st issue:

Posted by: Juliette | November 30, 2005 2:49 AM | Report abuse

The Iraq War is the Pandora's box that Bush opened...and now, Democrats are criticized for having various methods of closing the box back up without their voices lipsyncing in unison? Look, it doesn't matter what any of the Democrats suggest, if Bush takes any one of those "plans" it will still not be done correctly, and it will fail.

Too bad the Corporate media has already decided who the "true contenders" are. Guess it's the Senators who voted for the IWR (Edwards was a co-sponsor) or the Governors without any Foreign policy experience at all.

Besides Fiengold and Wes Clark, the rest are not worth a damn!

Shame on this columnist for thinking he knows more than we do. It is clear that Mr. Cilizza doesn't have even a clue! This is gonna be a long and torturous presidential season, cause we have to keep reading what the uninformed pundits have to say knowing that their "informational analysis" is nothing more than push politic propaganda. I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to bare the stoopidity too much longer.

Posted by: Juliette | November 30, 2005 2:39 AM | Report abuse

The neo-con's flash-in-the-pan 15 minutes of fame is coming to an end. The proof is the growing predonderance of rational analysis and discussion of where America is now, vis a vis Iraq, and the WOT (which has never been officially declared nor ratified). The Dem's relatively soft push, spearheaded by Murtha, to discuss withdrawal from Iraq, as well as his/their willingness to realistically assess the reality and effectiveness of the "facts on the ground", after several years of post-9/11 Pavlovian cringing from the apocalyptico-hagioraphy of the "lessons" learned" that day, as espoused by the Bushian cabal, to justify whatever cause or campaign or abuse was their mission of the day, is refreshing.

It coincides with a growing awareness by the American public, that vast resources, and many lives, have been wasted, and more put at risk, by a frivolity of a Machiavellian experiment, engineered by individuals who have neither experience in, nor respect for, the cost of war.

There isn't any one "right" way, to resolve the current quagmire. As the tide of the Neoconian Great Game ebbs, some of the slower and greedier scavengers will be left behind, exposed to the harsh scrutiny of history. The others will scuttle through the revolving door into the private sector, to ruminate on past meals of glory, the power they held and wielded as they sardonically wrapped themselves in the flag, for personal profit and aggrandizement, sending soldiers to risk death, and risk the deaths of innocent civilians.

As the American public becomes increasingly aware of the manipulative rhetoric that was used on them, to justify a war of choice, not neccessity, they will look to support leaders who can present a clear honest assessment of where things stand. Those within government who are capable of presenting an understanding of the current reality, and appreciation for the historical context of the status quo, will receive the support of the public.

Well, it's always nice to dream, isn't it?

Posted by: Kris | November 30, 2005 2:10 AM | Report abuse

We have killed about 200,000 innocent civillians in Iraq. Fewer than 3000 Americans died in the September 11th attacks. Now think about why "9/11" is such a total joke to most people in countries around the world. Tsunamis killed something like 125,000 innocent people in SE Asia last year--we're not spending $200B to prevent tsunamis or protect people from them. Over 300,000 innocent people have been slaughtered in the genocide in Sudan, but we can hardly muster the gumption to say, "Hey! This is genocide!", let alone actually doing anything about it. Not only did Saddam not attack us or have any connection to Al Qaeda; his regime was not remotely a threat to the US. What credibility do we have with the world when we fight pre-emptive wars? Doesn't that give Iran, Syria, and North Korea the right to attack us on the (reasonable) premise that they fear we may attack them? How can we argue with a straight face that we should be allowed to have nuclear weapons, but other countries shouldn't?

There are 6.3 billion people living on this planet. It's about time the US woke up to the 6 billion who aren't Americans.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | November 30, 2005 12:08 AM | Report abuse

You speak as if most of the democrats speaking out now against the war have all searched their conscience and come to a point that's a moment of truth. If only that were so. Hillary Clinton, the last time we heard from her, wanted more troops in Iraq. Edwards apologized for supporting the war with his vote. That's the only time he volunteered to speak about Iraq. John Kerry waited a year to come up with a plan, a plan that's meaningless. Where was his plan when he ran for the presidency? All three of them waited to see which way the public would go on the Iraq war before actually going public. Biden and the rest of them, with the exception of Russ Feingold, rant and rave and then refuse to have the spine to avow a strong public postion on the war--a postion that will really get us out of Iraq and soon. Left to Clinton, Edwards, Biden and Kerry, we're in Iraq to stay. All of them, like Bush, talk about the stabilization of Iraq before any American troops leave. What the hell do they mean by stabilization? Not one of them gets definitive when talking about it. If they mean we'll leave when the Iraqies can defend themselves, good luck. What does that say? Does anyone believe the Iraqies will coalesce into an army of stability with the will to defend themselves and really do it? We'll be in Iraq decades before that even begins to happen. No matter when we leave Iraq, next week or next year or the next century, Iraq is doomed to either civil war or splitting in thirds. Why wait then? We need to leave and ASAP before the next 1,000 Americans die. Acting responsible about Iraq does not include a policy that if held to, will lead to one endless road littered with the dead. When does it stop? When will be the right time to say, out and out now, without fear of republican demogogues targeting democrats for a cut-and-run policy. (This, from Cheney, who got 5 deferrments during Vietnam because he had better things to do, and Bush--a draft dodger installed in the coast guard with his father's help, and then departing early, not having the character or sense to finish.)
Cut and run, leave, ciao, don't let the door hit you on the way out, toot-toot tootsie goodbye--who cares? Just get out of Iraq and now.

Posted by: Steamboater | November 29, 2005 11:57 PM | Report abuse

Dems may not always agree. They tend to have an open public debate which shows the fissures that naturally occur in large organizations. I would take this approach of the behind the scenes, clandestine, stretch the truth, mislead the public and force a war upon the American people that was not necessary.

Posted by: db | November 29, 2005 10:51 PM | Report abuse

You've hit the nail on the head, KCinDC. Why the inflammatory "split personality" swipe, Chris? I guess "High Profile Democrats Differ on Iraq" is a bit of a dog-bites-man headline. I am impressed that you've made Josh Marshall's "Nice Try" list, though. Kudos!

Posted by: ibc | November 29, 2005 10:29 PM | Report abuse

The Democrats as a whole may have a split personality on Iraq, but at least it's different Democrats taking the different positions. Bush has a real split personality -- saying that anyone who advocates withdrawal is a terrorist-loving traitor and then announcing his own plan for withdrawal (cribbed from Biden).

Posted by: KCinDC | November 29, 2005 10:08 PM | Report abuse

Hey Chris, how about getting a copy of Joe Lieberman's piece from the Wall Street Journal and posting it here. Definitely NOT the normal Democratic reaction of late.

Posted by: Crazy Politico | November 29, 2005 9:44 PM | Report abuse

Not sure why we are pretending that troop levels won't be reduced significantly as soon as the president declares victory (regardless of what the reality on the ground in Iraq)

When our political leaders are ready they will declare victory and we will leave the Iraqi people to their own devices.

Posted by: Charles Jordan | November 29, 2005 9:41 PM | Report abuse

Clark was not only on the right side in the run up to this war and offering the most sensible termination stratergy now, but in effect he is the only Democrat to face down 1000 Al qaeda fighters (Bosnia) without a fatality and won!

Posted by: honest Ernest | November 29, 2005 8:54 PM | Report abuse

The media worked hard to marginalize Clark in the 04 primaries (as well as all discussion of the VP pick). Here again, they pretend he doesn't exist.


Posted by: Monni | November 29, 2005 8:47 PM | Report abuse

Clark has had the right idea for a long while now, right? I enjoyed rereading that WaPo Op Ed again.

How come Clark is not mentioned by Mr. C?

Posted by: Tricia | November 29, 2005 8:05 PM | Report abuse

This is one of lowest casualty conflicts in US history. Maybe in your dream world wars are simple and easy.
The Iraqis shot at US troops more than the Germans did before WWII. Maybe if FDR wasn't such an incompetent cripple so many of our troops wouldn't have died.
Last year, many more US citizens died from car accidents than from the war in Iraq. No blood for cars!
Posted by: GetaClue | Nov 29, 2005 7:12:54 PM

Oh, ya, the Iraqis were MUCH worse than the Nazis. GMAFB.
Some of these jokers that pop up around here are just too much. Way to try to earn points by attacking FDR for being a cripple. And you don't even give a damn about 2000+ dead Americans soldiers (or the numerous Iraqis that have died in far greater numbers than the US auto fatality rate). Pathetic and pointless, not too mention completely clueless. Get a life.

Posted by: ErrinF | November 29, 2005 8:02 PM | Report abuse

Beyond her pro-war views, Hilary will suffer for associating with Bush too freely rather than opposing him vigorously. Because of the fundraising efforts for the tsunami and Katrina, the Bush family and the Clinton family seem a little too close for comfort these days.
Also, come 2008, the Iraq war won't be as big of an issue because 2006 will be a year of major withdrawal. Those who opposed the war may gain politically for being able to say "I told you so" but those that voted for the war and continued to support it probably won't be held too accountable since most of the blame will be thrown on Bush.

Posted by: ErrinF | November 29, 2005 7:54 PM | Report abuse

A Real Plan for Success in Iraq
Updated August 26, 2005
By General Wesley Clark (Ret.-Army)

Washington Post Op-ed
Unabridged Version
August 26, 2005

In the old, familiar fashion, mounting US casualties in Iraq have mobilized increasing public doubts about the war. Now, more than half the American people believe that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. They're right. But it would also be a mistake now to pull out, start pulling out, or set a date to pull out. Instead we need a strategy to create a stable democratizing and peaceful state in Iraq - a strategy the Administration has failed to develop and articulate.
From the outset of the American post-invasion efforts, we needed a three-pronged strategy - diplomatic, political, and military. Iraq sits geographically on the fault-line between Shia and Sunni Islam - and for the mission to succeed we will have to be the catalyst for regional cooperation. Iraq cannot be "isolated from its neighbors and tensions in the region. We needed to engage Iraq's neighbors to insure that a stable, democratizing Iraq was not a threat to them, to isolate Iraq from outside supplies, leadership, and manpower, and to gain from them resources and support to alleviate the burdens on the US.
Unfortunately, the Administration didn't see the need for a diplomatic track. Its scattershot diplomacy in the region - threatening some of Iraq's neighbors with a variety of economic and diplomatic measures and allusions to further military action, expounding aims in the region that sound grandiose, and to many of those who live there, naïve and even somewhat imperialistic, failing to reinforce the US efforts with more culturally and linguistically capable regional allies, and turning away other assistance which might have made US leadership less obtrusive - have been ill-advised and counterproductive. The diplomatic failure magnified the difficulties facing the political and military elements of US strategy by contributing to the increasing infiltration of jihadists, the surprisingly resilient support of the insurgency, and the underlying political difficulties of bringing together representative Iraqi elements
On the political track, aiming for a legitimate, democratic Iraqi government was essential, but the US was far too slow in mobilizing Iraqi political action. A wasted first year encouraged a rise in sectarian militias and the emergence of strong fractionating forces. And even within the last year, as John Negroponte moved to Washington, months went by without an American Ambassador in Iraq. Today, political development among the Iraqis is hampered not only by the lack of security but also by American efforts to promote the establishment of a democracy without adequate development of the underlying social and cultural prerequisites, such as security and an infrastructure program that can reliably deliver gas, electricity and jobs.
Meanwhile, on the military track, security on the ground is poor, not only in terms of suicide bombing but more importantly, in terms of protection of life and property for ordinary Iraqis. The US armed forces still haven't received the resources, restructuring and guidance adequate for the magnitude of the task. Why, in June, 2005, over two year into the mission of training Iraqi forces, was the President announcing such "new steps" as partnering with Iraqi units, establishing "transition teams" to work with Iraqi units, or training Iraqi Ministries to conduct anti-terrorist operations? There's nothing new about any of this - just standard nation-building doctrine which we used in Vietnam. Where are the thousands of trained linguists that we need? Where are the flexible, well-resourced, military-led infrastructure development programs to win "hearts and minds?" Where are the smart operations and adequate numbers of forces - US, coalition, or Iraqi -to strengthen control over the borders?
With each passing month other intervening factors compound the difficulties and probably reduce the chances for the mission in Iraq to succeed. The election of an Iranian hardliner makes dialogue with Iran more difficult. Ineffective dealings with Syria probably reduces Assad's leverage in controlling jihadist infiltration into Iraq. Fractionating forces within Iraq have grown stronger, and Iraq's economic infrastructure more fragile. Iraqi patience is wearing thin amidst the continuing violence and hardship in Baghdad. And the apparently growing flow of jihadists in and out of Iraq not only testifies to an increasingly sophisticated insurgency but also a new source of training journeymen to fight against us in the global war on terror. So urgent modification of the strategy is required, before it is too late to do anything other than withdraw..
Adding a diplomatic track to the strategy is a must. The US should form a standing conference of Iraq's neighbors, complete with committees dealing with all the regional economic and political issues, including trade, travel, cross-border infrastructure projects, and, of course, cutting off the infiltration of jihadists. Iraq's neighbors should be asked to assist. This will also provide a better opportunity for meaningful back-door discussions of Iran's nuclear program, Syria's interests in Lebanon, and Turkish interaction with the Kurds in Iraq. The US should tone down its raw rhetoric for US-style democracy as an answer to all problems and instead listen more carefully to the many voices within the region. A public US declaration forswearing permanent bases in Iraq would also be helpful in engaging both regional and Iraqi support at this point.
On the political side, the timeline for the agreements on the Constitution are less important than the substance. It is up to American leadership to help engineer a compromise that will avoid the "red lines" of the respective factions and leave in place a state that both we and the neighbors can support. So, no Kurdish vote on independence; a restricted role for Islam, and limited autonomy in the south. And no private militias.
In addition, the US needs a legal mandate from the government to provide additional civil assistance and advice - along with additional US civilian personnel aimed at strengthening the institutions of government. Three month in-country tours should be replaced by a minimum two year stay for civilian advisors and technical experts. Key ministries must be reinforced, provincial governments made functional, a system of justice trained and established, and the rule of law promoted at the local levels. With the majority of Iraqis having known no other leader than Saddam Hussein, there will be a continuing need for assistance in institutional development, leadership training, and international monitoring for years to come, and all of this must be made palatable to Iraqi sovereignty. Hand-in-glove are the requirements for infrastructure repair, job creation, and economic development without which no government will be safe from an insurgent force. Monies promised for reconstruction simply must be committed and projects moved forward, especially in those areas along the border and where the insurgency has the greatest potential..
On the military side, the vast effort underway to train an Army must be matched by efforts to train police and local justices. Countries as far away as Canada, France and Germany should be engaged to assist. Gulf states should also provide observers and technical assistance. In military terms, striking at insurgents is necessary but insufficient - instead, military and security operations must return primarily to the tried and true methods of counterinsurgency - winning the hearts and minds of the populace through civic action, small scale economic development, and positive daily interactions. Ten thousand Arab Americans with full language proficiency should be recruited to assist as interpreters. A more successful effort must be made to control jihadist infiltration into the country by a combination of outposts, patrols, and reaction forces reinforced by high technology means. Over time, American forces should be pulled back into reserve roles and phased out.
The growing chorus of voices demanding a pull-out should seriously alarm the Bush Administration. For President Bush and his team are repeating the failure of Vietnam - failing to craft a realistic and effective policy, and in its place, simply demanding that the American people show resolve. Resolve alone isn't enough to mend a flawed approach. If the Administration won't adopt a winning strategy, then the American people will be justified in demanding that the Administration bring our troops home.
Original Plan
November 6, 2003
When the President flew out to the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln and posed under the banner that read: "Mission Accomplished," he made it clear he did not understand the scope of the mission. We need a success strategy. Only success can honor the sacrifice of so many American men and women; it is only success that will allow Iraq to stand on its own; and it is only success that will allow our soldiers to come home. Early exit means retreat or defeat. Wes Clark has a plan to internationalize the reconstruction, counter the terrorists' guerilla war more effectively, and give Iraqis a greater stake in our own success.
What Do We Do Now?
Wes Clark believes we need to clearly define our mission in Iraq by deciding what constitutes success. Our mission is to create a secure, stable Iraq with a representative government. Only this will make America more secure and enable our troops to come home. Success means that Iraq is strong enough to sustain itself without outside forces but is no longer a threat to its neighbors; that representative government has taken root so Iraq can be a model for democratic hope in the Middle East; and that Iraqi society and the Iraqi economy are healthy enough so that Al Qaeda cannot recruit there.
Wes Clark's strategy for Iraq is guided by the following principles:
End the American monopoly. From the beginning, the Administration has insisted on exclusive control of the Iraqi reconstruction and occupation. This has cost us the financial and military support of other nations and made America a bigger target for terrorists. Ending the American monopoly will change the way this enterprise is viewed -- in Iraq and throughout the world.
Re-incorporate our allies. Fixing the Administration's missteps will require skilled diplomacy at the highest levels. Wes Clark recommends calling a summit of leaders from Europe, the United Nations, Japan and the Arab world to launch a new, internationalized effort in Iraq. They will be more willing to help if America works with them on issues they care about: climate change, the International Criminal Court and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
Transform the military operation into a NATO operation. General Abizaid, commander of US forces in the Middle East, would remain in charge of the operation, but he would report to the NATO Council, as General Clark did as commander of NATO forces in Kosovo. With NATO support and U.N. endorsement, we can also expect some Arab countries to step in. Their presence would prove that this is not an American occupation, but an international and regional effort to stabilize Iraq.
Adjust the force mix. The Bush Administration has failed to formulate an effective tactical plan. No such plan will be viable without substantial contributions from military leaders on the ground. Still, Wes Clark would approach the problem as follows:
Consider adding troops. Wes Clark believes we should look at whether adding forces will help the effort in Iraq. He would not measure success in Iraq by a reduction in troops or failure by an increase. It's more important to do the job right so all the troops can come home sooner.
Adapt to guerilla war. One mistake in Vietnam was trying to use conventional forces to fight an unconventional war. The more unarmored humvees we have, the greater our vulnerability to roadside bombs. We have suffered more losses in routine patrolling and transit than in active counter-insurgency efforts. We need to ensure the right mix of forces to fight a classic guerrilla war. That means more Special Forces and other light forces better suited for counter-insurgency.
Better use of intelligence resources. To protect our soldiers we must do all we can to find out who's attacking our soldiers. That means better intelligence work and improved relations with the civilian population. Yet intelligence specialists and people who can speak to Iraqis in their own language are scarce. We need to take the linguists and intelligence specialists now involved in the search for WMDs and assign them to our military counter-insurgency efforts. International inspectors are willing and able to take over this mission. We must also augment our intelligence capability with new technologies and better recruitment in the Arab-American community.
Train Iraqi security forces, freeing up U.S. troops. We need to empower Iraqis to provide routine security so American soldiers can focus on urgent tasks like counter-insurgency. Wes Clark would implement a comprehensive two-tier plan: train police first, then military.
Summon the old Iraqi army for duty at the local level. We need more Iraqi paramilitary units and police at the local level. General Clark will use thorough background checks, generous pay rates, and real political control for Iraqis -- as well as appealing to Iraqis' sense of nationality -- to put Iraqis in charge of basic security, freeing up US soldiers to focus on our most urgent tasks, including counter-insurgency.
Reconstitute the Iraqi Army so that it eventually can do the work the occupation force now does - guarding Iraqi borders, keeping order, and fighting insurgents. It will take considerable time to have an Iraqi Army trained enough and integrated enough to do the job.
Engage neighbors for better border security. Iraq is now a magnet for every jihadist in the Middle East. Closing the borders requires cooperation from the countries bordering Iraq. But currently, Syria and Iran don't want us to succeed because they fear they are next on our invasion list. Wes Clark recommends engaging Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia with both carrots and sticks. We have serious issues with each of these countries, but closing those borders is the most urgent priority right now. We must show Iraq's neighbors that cooperation with us is in their interest and will help their region.
Secure ammunition. Today, hundreds of thousands of tons of ammunition from Saddam's arsenal have yet to be secured, and thousands of shoulder-fired missiles remain at large. Terrorists have used these stockpiles to attack our forces. We should destroy that ammunition immediately or else secure it with surveillance technology and troops from other countries willing to come to Iraq.
Promote information exchange to advance civil society. To encourage the growth of civic organizations, media, neighborhood groups -- and promote reconstruction -- we should open the West to Iraq for exchange programs so that Iraqis who have been isolated for years can see the what the rest of the world does with its economy, schools, health care, media and government.
Preventing Foreign Misadventures Going Forward
Promote security through multilateralism. No nation will ever have veto power over our security. But turning our back on our allies makes it harder to protect ourselves and our interests. Despite our overwhelming military, economic and political strength, we cannot pursue Arab-Israeli peace, support reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan, deal with the challenges of North Korea, track down Osama bin Laden, fight the global war against terrorism, face the problem of Iran, and return to prosperity in this country, unless we have allies to help us.
Modernize international institutions to combat new threats. Wes Clark recommends pursuing a new Atlantic Charter to repair and modernize our security partnership with Europe. The Charter that will define the threats we face in common and demand action from our allies to meet them while offering a promise to act together.
Create a new agency for international assistance. Wes Clark believes America should lead the world in addressing the causes of human misery by attacking the problems of poverty, disease, and ethnic conflict with the same energy and skill we have brought to the challenge of warfare. A new agency would combine the existing development efforts of our government with a real budget for research and development, planning and the ability to draw on the new national Civilian Reserves that Wes Clark proposed in his campaign last October. These efforts will reduce the anger and alienation that gives rise to terrorism, and win us more friends and partners around the world. It will be far easier to ask gain international support for our concerns when other countries see us helping them on theirs.

Posted by: "Stay The Course" is a slogan not a strategy - Wes Clark | November 29, 2005 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Hey Chris! Why are you leaving out the only 2008 Prez candidate with the gravitas and creds to get us out of Iraq without having to consult a foreign policy aide???


Posted by: Chris Cilizza Ignores Gen. Clark Again | November 29, 2005 7:33 PM | Report abuse

This is one of lowest casualty conflicts in US history. Maybe in your dream world wars are simple and easy.

The Iraqis shot at US troops more than the Germans did before WWII. Maybe if FDR wasn't such an incompetent cripple so many of our troops wouldn't have died.

Last year, many more US citizens died from car accidents than from the war in Iraq. No blood for cars!

Posted by: GetaClue | November 29, 2005 7:12 PM | Report abuse

The Democrats let the country down in the run-up to the war, so I have little sympathy for their plight now. Like the media, they were intimidated by Bush's post-911 aura and, also like the media, they accepted his premises uncritically. Now that we've seen how truly incompetent this president is, we know what a historic mistake that was. As a result,the Democratic candidates are in a well-deserved quandry.

Posted by: Mike 234 | November 29, 2005 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Tough call; do you appease the base of starry-eyed liberals with damn-the-torpedoes-let's-pull-the-troops-out or do you try to do something that might let the Iraqis succeed? Standards for 'success' in the Middle East seem to be decreasing by the day. It's easy to see that a Shiite theocracy is the most likely result (thank you GWB for replacing a secular government with an avowedly Islamist one) but will this be accompanied by a civil war? I'd hate to see us do what Nixon did in 'Nam - abandon them and let the winners hang as many of the losers as they like until things settle down - but what is the best outcome of this current mess?

It boils down to appeasing the base with a Kucinich approach to the problem OR trying to win the middle. Faced with the current lack of any semblance of leadership on the part of the POTUS anything looks better than where we are now. If we had a draft going things might be different but at the moment the current Clintonian approach of appealing to the middle seems to be as good a strategy as it was back in 1992.

Posted by: lpdrjk | November 29, 2005 5:23 PM | Report abuse

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