Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Hillary Clinton Strikes A Centrist Position On Iraq

Sen. Hillary Clinton, back from her trip to Iraq and Afghanistan, struck a reasonably centrist position Wednesday on U.S. war policy in an interview on the Today program. With Sen. Barack Obama moving toward making a presidential bid, and former Sen. John Edwards already assuming a left wing McGovernite position, it's becoming clear that Clinton will try to occupy the Democratic center, assuming she makes her own bid. This would put her slightly to the right of Obama and distinctly to the right of Edwards in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination next year.

This morning, Clinton said she feels the U.S. ought to withdraw Green Zone support and protection for the Maliki government in Baghdad unless he promptly knuckles under on helping U.S. forces fight the Mahdi militia. So far, he has proved totally unsatisfactory in that regard. In fact, he is complicit with the Shiite Mahdi killers.

Clinton said she believes that unless he comes around, U.S. forces should be withdrawn from Baghdad and simply used in Anbar and the northwest to fight the Sunni insurgents, while, presumably not joining in in the civil war now raging between Sunnis and Shiites in Baghdad.

While Clinton opposed the troop increase in Iraq as a whole now being implemented by President Bush, she said she does feel U.S. troop levels should be increased by two battalions in Afghanistan in anticipation of spring attacks by the Taliban. The U.S. currently has only 23,000
troops in Afghanistan compared to about 140,000 in Iraq.

I'm heartened, overall, by these positions by Clinton, since it is clear she does not favor a withdrawal from the Middle East and has adopted a realistic position toward the Maliki government and its persistent support of sectarian violence in Iraq.

Perhaps, not so coincidentally, President Bush sharpened his criticism of Maliki in comments made yesterday, specifically saying the brutal hanging executions of Saddam Hussein and two of his close associates had been mishandled. The President warned in his speech last week that the U.S. commitment to the Maliki government was not "open ended" and there may be less space between his and Clinton's positions than there appears to many observers to be.

Obama, meanwhile, has also been leaning a bit toward the center on what to do in the Middle East. He has made it clear he is not for a precipitate withdrawal from Iraq, and has supported a larger U.S. commitment in Afghanistan.

Only Edwards sounds thoroughly defeatist, and he is demagoguing this issue. He voted for the war in the first place, and now has adopted the cut-and-run attitude of the cowardly Sen. John Kerry in an attempt to stake out a position he thinks will benefit him in the primaries. It's a position which could work in the primaries, in my view, but not in a general election. With that in mind, Clinton's position is far more beneficial both to herself in the long run and to American power and success in the world.

We'll see what happens, but it's becoming apparent that Maliki and his corrupt and murderous government is on an increasingly short leash with all factions in the U.S. Getting rid of him may well prove necessary

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