We continue today looking at the Democratic candidates for President, and what they would do about Iraq. Part 1 of this article ran yesterday, and covered Richardson, Obama, Kucinich, and Gravel. Continuing in reverse alphabetical order, today we examine Edwards, Dodd, Clinton, and Biden.
The excerpted text comes directly from their campaign websites, and the link above the excerpt takes you directly to their "Issues / Iraq" pages.
John Edwards has a well-thought out plan for Iraq. Since he is no longer in the Senate, he can afford to be bolder than most on what Congress should do right now to force President Bush to end the war. Some of the things he suggests are probably not politically possible at this point, but that should not be seen as a negative -- since many other candidates are also proposing things which could never make it through Congress next month. I mention this only because the other three candidates reviewed today all still are in Congress, which influences their Iraq ideas to some extent.
Edwards instead goes for a vision of how to move from where we are to where we want to be. This is a good thing to do when you're running for President. But he also breaks his plan down into a level of detail which answers (most) questions about what he would do, without getting too technical.
Some of Edwards' plan seems a bit dated (as if he came up with it in January), but it is carefully worded to still be mostly applicable today. Edwards would cap funding for troops, require Bush to ask Congress re-authorize the war, and pull troops out in 12 to 18 months. He would also renew efforts on the diplomatic front with Iraq's neighbors.
For those that go over the candidates' statements with a fine-toothed comb, it must be pointed out that Edwards has (by careful wording) left open the option of whether any troops would stay in Iraq after the 12-18 month period. He would withdraw all "combat troops" and swears there would be "no permanent military bases" left in Iraq, but does not explicitly commit to "all troops out," as Richardson and others have called for.
From Edwards' website:
Edwards' plan for Iraq calls for Congress to:
* Cap Funds: Cap funding for the troops in Iraq at 100,000 troops to stop the surge and implement an immediate drawdown of 40-50,000 combat troops. Any troops beyond that level should be redeployed immediately.
* Support the Troops: Prohibit funding to deploy any new troops to Iraq that do not meet real readiness standards and that have not been properly trained and equipped, so American tax dollars are used to train and equip our troops, instead of escalating the war.
* Require Authorization: Make it clear that President Bush is conducting this war without authorization. The 2002 authorization did not give President Bush the power to use U.S. troops to police a civil war. President Bush exceeded his authority long ago, and now needs to end the war and ask Congress for new authority to manage the withdrawal of the U.S. military presence and to help Iraq achieve stability.
* End the War: Require a complete withdrawal of combat troops in Iraq in 12 to 18 months without leaving behind any permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq.
In addition, Edwards believes stabilizing Iraq requires a major diplomatic effort to:
* Engage in direct talks with all the nations in the region, including Iran and Syria
* Support a political solution to the sectarian violence inside Iraq, including through convening a multi-party peace conference.
Edwards also believes the United States must intensify its efforts to train the Iraqi security forces.
Chris Dodd has a wealth of foreign policy experience, and he tries to spotlight this on his Issues pages. He addresses not only Iraq, but other problems in the world and his foreign policy vision for restoring America in the eyes of the world.
Unfortunately, by putting all of this on one page (other candidates have general "foreign policy" language on separate pages from their "Iraq" page, for the most part), he seems kind of sparse on what he would do in Iraq. He kind of punts on the issue, merely referencing "the Feingold-Reid proposal" without linking to anything that explains what that might be.
This is the problem with Senators running for President in a nutshell -- they expect average Americans to speak the same language spoken inside the Beltway. Now, Chris Dodd may be the best man to get us out of Iraq (and I personally would love to have a "President Chris" in office for obvious personal and selfish reasons), but nothing on his webpage convinces me that this is true.
Here is the text of everything on his Issues page that references Iraq. As you can see, it doesn't even come close to answering all questions about what to do in Iraq.
From Dodd's website:
The Dodd Plan To Restore America's Moral Authority
* Strengthen our Alliances. As President, Chris Dodd will work to restore our alliances, rebuild international institutions to better fight the war against terrorism, and enhance America's security while upholding our common values.
* Diplomacy, Not More Troops in Iraq. Chris Dodd is strongly opposed to the Bush-Cheney troop surge strategy. As President, he will advance a surge of diplomacy in the region, not a surge of more troops.
* End the War in Iraq Decisively. Chris Dodd understands that ending the war in Iraq makes America safer. He strongly supports the Feingold-Reid proposal â€“ the only responsible measure in Congress that sets a timetable to end the war in Iraq by March 31, 2008 â€“ and he has urged all the candidates in the presidential race to join him. It is time to stand up to the President's misguided Iraq policy.
* Hold America's Allies Accountable. As President, Chris Dodd would engage key strategic countries, nations like Saudi Arabia and Russia, and call on them to support freedom and democracy in their own countries and to eliminate the conditions that export terrorism and allow our enemies to thrive.
Hillary's site is more detailed than I would have thought, meaning either that the mainstream media is stifling her message or that she's just not effectively getting it out there. But it was a pleasant surprise. Her text on Iraq is not overly long, but it does answer almost all the key questions.
Now, much like some other candidates, she applies a masterful use of vague language to leave herself some options (otherwise known as "wiggle room") on what to do in Iraq. For instance, she would give the Iraqi government "real benchmarks with real consequences," while demurring on stating what those consequences should be. Or even what the benchmarks should be, for that matter.
To her credit, while others wiggle around the issue, she actually admits that she would leave some residual troops in Iraq to continue training the Iraqis and for counterterrorism. This is not exactly a popular idea with the anti-war base, which shows that she really has begun to run her general election campaign already. She is appealing to independents and centrists by saying, in essence, "I would deal with Iraq responsibly, rather than pulling out no matter what the consequences." This is a tight rope indeed to walk in this election season.
Hillary does get points for attempting to present herself as a leader on Iraq, though, and I must say that impressed me -- solely because it is so conspicuous in its absence from many other candidates' websites. She talks of legislation that she either proposed or co-sponsored herself, as opposed to just supporting someone else's plan. Some may call this opportunistic, but I disagree -- I think it shows some sorely-needed leadership from within Congress on the issue.
She does make the same mistake Dodd makes, though, in referencing legislation without providing a link to the legislation itself -- a mark that she's spent too much time in Washington.
From Clinton's website:
Ending the War in Iraq
Hillary opposes President Bush's plan to escalate the war and proposed, along with Senator Robert Byrd, legislation to end authority for the war in Iraq. The legislation will propose October 11, 2007 -- the five year anniversary of the original resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq -- as the expiration date for that resolution.
The President would be required to come to Congress to seek new authority. Following deauthorization, Senator Clinton would not support any new legislation that did not start to remove our troops from the middle of this sectarian civil war.
She has also proposed a cap on troop levels to January 1, 2007 levels and put forth a comprehensive roadmap for ending the war. If it is followed, Hillary's bill, the Iraq Troop Protection and Reduction Act of 2007, will end the war before the next president takes the oath of office. But she has also been clear: if George Bush refuses to end the war, when she is president, she will.
Hillary opposes permanent bases in Iraq. She believes we may need a vastly reduced residual force to train Iraqi troops, provide logistical support, and conduct counterterrorism operations. But that is not a permanent force, and she has been clear that she does not plan a permanent occupation.
Ready to Lead
In addition to capping troop levels, Hillary's Iraq Troop Protection and Reduction Act of 2007 would:
* Require President Bush to begin removing the troops from Iraq within 90 days of passage, or Congress will revoke authorization for the war.
* Put an end to the blank check to the Iraqi government and give them real benchmarks with real consequences if they fail to meet them.
* Require the Secretary of Defense to certify that all troops sent to Iraq have the training and equipment they need.
I did this list in reverse alphabetical order, which meant that Biden came up last on the list. This wasn't planned (in other words), but I have to say this had the result of "saving the best for last."
If we were electing the President next year only on what to do in Iraq, Joe Biden would win the contest hands down.
Of course, that's not how we elect Presidents, but I have to give credit where credit is due. Joe Biden has A Plan For Iraq. And his is the only plan out there that answers a crucial question which nobody else is even asking (because they're scared of talking about it with voters): What happens after we leave? He even ends the following excerpt by tossing this gauntlet down at the feet of all who would question or criticize his plan: You got a better idea?
Since the last time I visited his website, he appears to have become a little defensive -- almost testy -- about his plan. I guess he's gotten some criticism, especially on the "partition" idea. Anyway, due to space restrictions, I can only excerpt a small part of his Issues page on Iraq, but I strongly suggest you visit his site to see for yourself what a well-thought out plan for Iraq looks like. He talks about his plan, summarizes the specifics, and defends it against criticism. If that's not enough for you, he has a prominent link to the actual plan, which you can read for yourself to decide.
I won't go into all the specifics of his plan here, but suffice it to say that if Iraq were the only issue to vote on, Biden would get my vote without hesitation. Even if he does not win the nomination, he would make an excellent Secretary of State (or even Defense) in someone else's Cabinet.
From Biden's website:
There is no purely military solution to the sectarian civil war. The only way to break the vicious cycle of violence -- and to create the conditions for our armed forces to responsibly withdraw -- is to give Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds incentives to pursue their interests peacefully. That requires an equitable and viable power sharing arrangement. That's where Joe Biden's plan comes in. This plan is not partition -- in fact, it may be the only way to prevent violent partition and preserve a unified Iraq. This plan is consistent with Iraq's constitution, which provides for Iraq's 18 provinces to join together in regions, with their own security forces, and control over most day-to-day issues. This plan is the only idea on the table for dealing with the militia, which are likely to retreat to their respective regions. This plan is consistent with a strong central government, with clearly defined responsibilities. Indeed, it provides an agenda for that government, whose mere existence will not end sectarian violence.
The example of Bosnia is illustrative. Ten years ago, Bosnia was being torn apart by ethnic cleansing. The United States stepped in decisively with the Dayton Accords to keep the country whole by, paradoxically, dividing it into ethnic federations. We even allowed Muslims, Croats and Serbs to retain separate armies. With the help of U.S. troops and others, Bosnians have lived a decade in peace. Now, they are strengthening their central government, and disbanding their separate armies.
The course we're on leads to a terrible civil war and possibly a regional war. Joe Biden's plan is designed to head that off. He believe it is the best way to bring our troops home, protect our fundamental security interests, and preserve Iraq as a unified country.
The question for those who reject this plan is simple: what is your alternative?
-- Chris Weigant