Thursday, March 15, 2007

Hillary's new Iraq plan has all the clarity, simplicity and political appeal of her old health insurance plan

Oh great. In an interview with Michael Gordon and Patrick Healy of the New York Times, Hillary Clinton said that as president she would keep U.S. troops in Iraq. While the Iraqi civil war continues to rage around them, they would ignore it and focus on their counterterrorism mission, protect Iraq from its neighbors, and continue to represent American interests in the region.

Questioning Bush's tactics but not the premises of his policy, the plan triangulates by half steps and half measures to perpetuate the morass we find ourselves in. It seems destined to fail. Like her ill-fated health insurance proposal of 1993, it offers bewildering complexity when bold initiatives are called for. If, by some miracle, the plan survives the Democratic primaries, it would most likely destroy any administration that tried to implement it. The American people want out of Iraq, and this doesn't do it.

Hillary did not put any numbers on her proposal, but Gordon and Healy juxtapose her plan with one that does have numbers in a way that makes it seem she endorses it.
In the interview, she suggested that it was likely that the fighting among the Iraqis would continue for some time. In broad terms, her strategy is to abandon the American military effort to stop the sectarian violence and to focus instead on trying to prevent the strife from spreading throughout the region by shrinking and rearranging American troop deployments within Iraq.

The idea of repositioning American forces to minimize American casualties, discourage Iranian, Syrian and Turkish intervention, and forestall the Kurds’ declaring independence is not a new one. It has been advocated by Dov S. Zakheim, who served as the Pentagon’s comptroller under former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Mr. Zakheim has estimated that no more than 75,000 troops would be required, compared to the approximately 160,000 troops the United States will have in Iraq when the additional brigades in Mr. Bush’s plan are deployed.
In all fairness, Hillary did not mention the Zakheim proposal, nor the numbers he suggested. It's useful to compare the story about the interview with the transcript provided by the Times. Hillary is mainly talking about the failure of Bush's policy and the likelihood that the surge will fail, leaving the next president still stuck in Iraq. She's much sketchier about her own plan. Still, she's quite specific, according to the transcript, about the basics.
And so it will be up to me to try to figure out how to protect those national security interests and continue to take our troops out of this urban warfare, which I think is a loser, and I do not believe that it can be successful. If we had done it right from the beginning, we might have had a fighting chance. We did not, and I think it is beyond our control now.

But what we can do is to almost take a line sort of 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.
Before Hillary and the other Democrats totally take over ownership of this war, they need to realize that the real issue facing the American public is no longer just Iraq. The real issue is whether we should get out of the business of empire before we expend even more treasure, both human and financial, destroy our democracy, and bankrupt our nation.

And, yes, there is a connection to healthcare: If we insist, we can probably afford to squander our resources in support of the imperial project for a few more years. We can afford universal healthcare. But we can't afford both.

UPDATE: Excellent post by Matt Stoller at MyDD today -- "Thinking Through Ending the War" -- that deals with some of these issues, their historical background, and why Hillary makes the decisions she makes about Iraq. Good discussion, too, in the comments. I like the suggestion by Cmpnwtr:
The way to win this argument is to attack internationalist interventionism by stating simply, "We need to take care of America first." "We have problems at home. Protection and safety starts here. Economic development and basic services start here. We need to stop closing bases in the U.S, and start closing them down overseas." This kind of non-interventionist, non-imperialist nationalism will win. I reject the idea that mainstream America wants troops in Iraq forever. If you frame the question as "permanent" bases, progressives win every time. Besides, if Hillary wants to run on a policy continuing the occupation in the primaries...she's history.
I agree with Matt that the public hasn't begun to think through the implications of our militaristic, imperialist drive for global hegemony. And Cmpnwtr is right that the way to work for change is to frame the issues in terms of the real (unmet) interests of the American people.

1 comment:

AlanSmithee said...

As a socio-political analyist, Stoller is an arrogant little shit of democratic party shill. His understanding of global politics is slightly simpler than a game of Risk and he knows just enough about economics to at least sound knowledgable without actually making any sense.

Truthfully, Stollers only real job is to keep idiot dems voting for his bosses. Certainly thats a job equal to Stoller's meager talents.