Comparison Of Clinton Iraq Plan to Other Candidates

by: Chris Bowers

Wed Sep 05, 2007 at 14:38

Now that it is coming into clearer focus, how does the Clinton plan for Iraq withdrawal compare to other plans? For one, it is very similar to Obama's  (emphasis mine):

Senator Obama introduced legislation in January 2007 to offer a responsible alternative to President Bush's failed escalation policy. The legislation commences redeployment of U.S. forces no later than May 1, 2007 with the goal of removing all combat brigades from Iraq by March 31, 2008 -- a date consistent with the bipartisan Iraq Study Group's expectations. The plan allows for a limited number of U.S. troops to remain in Iraq as basic force protection, to engage in counter-terrorism and to continue the training of Iraqi security forces.

The tasks that Obama lists for American troops to conduct in Iraq are virtually identical to those listed in the Clinton legislation for redeployment, the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, and those proposed by the Center for a New American Security. It appears that both Clinton and Obama would keep 40,000 troops in Iraq for a while if they become President, plus between 6,000 and 20,000 advisors and an always unspecified numbers of private contractors. I actually feel very confident in these numbers at this point, given how they have repeatedly appeared in several sources.

Dodd's plan is also virtually identical to the one proposed by Obama and Clinton (emphasis mine):

That's why I would include three narrowly targeted exceptions for redeployment - the protection of U.S. personnel and infrastructure, specific counterterrorism operations, and assistance with the training and equipping of Iraqi forces.

Conditionally, Biden supports exactly the same plan, although he estimates 20,000 to 60,000, rather than 40,000 to 60,000 (emphasis mine):

If, in the interim we actually make progress on a political settlement in Iraq and start to make Iraq the world's problem, not just our own, then I would support continuing what Democrats are trying to do now: transition our troops out of the civil war and into a limited mission of targeted counter-terrorism operations against Al Qaeda and like-minded groups, training Iraqis and force protection. If there actually is a political settlement, I'd also support U.S. troops taking part in any international peace keeping force, as they did in the Balkans. But if the current level of violence persists until the end of 2009, Iraq will be on the edge of breaking apart or fragmenting, if it was not already over the edge, and most of those missions would be impossible. By then, we would have either withdrawn virtually all of our troops, including the thousands necessary just to protect the Green Zone, in an orderly fashion, or gone through another terrible Saigon moment. In that case, the only mission I could see for U.S. troops in Iraq would be targetted counter-terrorism to deny Al Qaeda sanctuary (probably from outside Iraq) as well as working with other countries to contain the fall out of Iraq's civil war within the country.

Edwards goes further than Biden, Clinton, Dodd and Obama, citing the protection of American personnel and the American embassy as the only task he would have American troops conduct in Iraq under his presidency: (emphasis mine)

If John Edwards is president, we're not going to leave the American Embassy in Iraq as the only undefended embassy in the world, for example. There will be Marine guards there, just like there are at our embassies in London, Riyadh, and Tokyo.  And just the same, if American civilians are providing humanitarian relief to the Iraqi people, we're going to protect them. How in good conscience could we refuse to protect them and then allow humanitarian workers to be at risk for their lives or the work not to happen at all? Finally, it's also Senator Edwards' position that we will have troops in the region to prevent the sectarian violence in Iraq from spilling over into other countries, for counter-terrorism, or to prevent a genocide.

Of course, Bill Richardson goes even further, citing only the protection embassy green zone as a task for American troops to continue to perform in Iraq. Kucinich appears to have a similar plan.

So, here is the quick breakdown for what the Democratic candidates would have American troops do in Iraq if they become President, and how many troops it would require to perform those missions:

  • No residual forces outside of embassy protection: Richardson, Kucinich. This would require 5,000 to 10,000 troops, though possibly less, depending on the size of the embassy each would decide to maintain in Iraq.

  • Residual forces for embassy and personnel protection: Edwards. This would require between 5,000 and 10,000 troops for the embassy, and probably a similar number outside of the embassy. So, 10,000 to 20,000 seems likely.

  • Residual forces for counter-terrorism, Iraqi troop training, personnel protection and embassy protection: Clinton, Dodd and Obama, plus Biden conditionally. This will require roughly 40,000 troops, plus the number of advisors for the Iraqi military, plus an indeterminate amount of mercenaries private contractors. The Biden plan might require as few as 20,000, depending on the circumstances.

Feel free to make judgments based on this information. I have to admit, given the criteria I laid out for presidential candidates last week, this causes me to swing away from leaning Obama toward leaning Edwards. However, I am still not ready to make an endorsement.

Chris Bowers :: Comparison Of Clinton Iraq Plan to Other Candidates

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Senate Democrats (0.00 / 0)
It sounds like the Senate Democrats withdrawal plan, hence all of the Democratic presidential candidates who are in the Senate endorse it.

Funny that you credit the plan to Clinton, maybe that is why she is perceived as leading Democrats on matters like Iraq and national security.

Thank You (4.00 / 5)
I think this is a very objective post, really the first one I have seen on the subject of the various Iraq plans.  Too often you read in the progressive blogosphere that Richardson is the only major candidate with a distinctive position on Iraq.  That it is Richardson, proposing the famous "no residual forces" alone on one side of the divide and Edwards, Clinton, Obama etc all have about the same position on the other.  This is the first blog that I have seen that accurately sets out the distinctions among the candidates.  Of course, there could have been (many) others that I missed.

Obviously, this is an area in which honorable people can disagree, but to me the key distinction is not between Richardson and Edwards, because neither would keep combat troops conducting combat missions.  Rather, the key distinction is Clinton and the rest who are proposing maintaining active combat operations in Iraq.  I say that because to conduct a policy of "we will continue to post forces in Iraq to fight al queda" means, literally, we will never leave Iraq.  Our combat operations there, with everything it entails, the grabbing the wrong people with no due process, the accidental bombing of civilians as "collateral damage," the invasion of homes, are the things that lead people to support terrorists.  Further, as even the Bush Administration admits, our forces in combat operations act as a "flypaper" encouraging other terrorists to come to Iraq.  Thus, Clinton's plan insures that our troops will be fighting there forever.

Now, a Richardson supporter can say that the same applies to Edwards' plan.  However, I disagree.  All Edwards wants our military to do is guard the embassy and protect Americans.  My understanding is that this is what all our embassy forces do throughout the world.  The forces guarding the embassy in Israel, Saudi Arabia or the United Kingdom would act to protect the lives of Americans if possible.  So, the mere fact that we have a passive military presence in Iraq under Edwards' plan does not invite terrorist attacks anymore then the presence of any embassy throughout the world.  Can some terrorist attack the American embassy in Iraq or take American civilian hostages in order to create an incident under Edwards' plan?  Yes.  Can the terrorists do the same thing in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey or France?  Yes. The point is, unlike the Clinton plan, neither the Edwards nor the Richardson plans will prolong the war in Iraq by having our soldiers conduct combat operations.  While the Clinton plan will.

Again Chris, thanks for clarifying where the candidates stand on this crucial issue. 

I have been an Edwards supporter (0.00 / 0)
since the start of this campaign but I find myself leaning more and more towards Obama each day. Perhaps this is a sub-conscious result of MSM pounding of a two-way race but I feel more and more the reality that, should Edwards not win Iowa, Obama is the one man who can stop Hillary from getting the nomination. That has always been the single logic behind possibly switching to Obama. Now, in the past few weeks, there is another reason.

I have only actively followed politics since 2003 when I turned of age to vote. I supported Dean that year and in 2004 because I believed he really stood apart from the crowd as someone who was not just going to change parties but really change politics. To me, and to a lot of people, Obama is trying to do just that minus the angry message that Dean had. Dean failed for a lot of reasons - too many to go into here. But if Obama can capitalize on that "change our politcs, not just our policy" mantra and get the support of average people and not just those on the most liberal fringe of the party, I think he can really do what he intends to do and do it not so much as the crusade Dean might have liked it to be but by engaging regular folks who don't throw things when they see Bush on TV or read The Nation. If Obama can get people in rural America to listen to what he communicates, then maybe he really can become the Reagan of the left.

I think his Iraq policy speaks to that. We all want out of Iraq. But to "leave some supplies behind" as Richardson suggests is just half-witted and naive - the latter of which Obama already has a problem with. A sensible and reasonable Iraq policy coupled with his long-term opposition to this war should make sense to the liberal base and the mainstream America he needs in order to do what Dean couldn't - to build a winning coalition.

It is an interesting rationale (4.00 / 2)
that doesn't make sense to me.  If you think Obama is better fine.  But Edwards is the one that is speaking up loudly against the war.  I listened to Obama on C-span and didn't hear anything about what the senate should do now.  He did mention being right 5 years ago.  I agree, but what is he doing now which is when we need leadership from him. 

Edwards campaign is solid and building its foundations.  His plans are clearer and more definitive than Obama's.  Nothing that Obama has done has convinced me he can take on Clinton.  I think Edwards can, but he does it by working hard and promoting the agenda and not his personality.  And he is quite personable.  Even though he has been behind in the national polls I see him not giving up and doing the right thing.

I think he is honest about Iraq and is willing to tell the truth.  And it is Edwards that keeps using his voice to urge congress to use its power.  I don't hear Obama doing that.

I think Obama is a good senator but his style is not the kind of leadership we need with this dysfunctional congress and with Republicans that have no shame in defending Bush.

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Piggy-backing off of that (0.00 / 0)
my greatest fear in terms of 2008 is that one of the top GOP candidates will pull a Nixon and come out against this war in the kinda-sorta way Nixon did in '68 by saying he had a "secret plan" to get us out of Iraq. While he in fact expanded the war, he at least led people to believe that an unpopular war would be ended on his watch. Most people, liberal and conservative, are fed up with this far. If a Romney or a Thompson was to come out and suggest they were at least in theory as anti-war as any Republican can get, they would have a lot easier time in the general election than they would if they are still beating war drums. Now that is a scary thought.

A pretty fair analysis, but (4.00 / 3)
there is another aspect also: fighting to get something done now.  With the We the People ads last May, support the troops end the war campaign, and his new ads, Edwards is merging his campaign with the antiwar movement. 

As Eli Pariser said about Obama and Clinton in June, and I paraphrase, they voted right but have not led (referring to the May vote).  Yes, Edwards has no vote in the Senate or House, but he has worked to mobilize public opinion.  He is leading on this.

It matters.  This is what the netroots is about: the people.

Today from the New York Times blog:

Democratic candidate John Edwards today blasted the Bush administration for attempting to paint a "rosier picture" on the war in Iraq than the reality on the ground in advance of next week's much-anticipated status reports on the situation there. He also said that it was up to Congress to force President Bush to change course on Iraq.


"George Bush is stubborn and he thinks he's incapable of making a mistake," Mr. Edwards said. "He needs to be forced to change course on Iraq."


"I don't think anybody believes that American military forces on the ground in Iraq can create a solution," he said. "As long as there continues to be serious political conflict, no one believes there can be stability on the ground."


I agree with John Edwards on using funding cuts to get a timetable for withdrawal and for sending the same bill back.

Afghanistan? (0.00 / 0)
Do any of the candidates have clear positions on the deployment in Afghanistan?

Whilst I have my concerns about that theatre, I'm more sanguine about prospects there, even if most of the stuff we're doing there now is what we should have done 4 years ago. Certainly I think that British troops in Iraq should leave as soon as possible and go to help our force in Helmand, where we're waging a campaign that our generals describe as the hardest fighting we've had since Korea.

Whilst Afghanistan has many of the same problems as Iraq, it at least lacks the large cities that necessitate messy urban fighting, allowing more targetted use of heavy weaponry (except in the case of US special forces, who apparently call in far too much in the way of ordnance, increasing civilian casualties and losing hearts and minds.) If any candidates have produced plans on doing enough military damage to the Taliban to permit proper reconstruction in the south, on making our NATO allies pull their weight there (there's a multinational force, but only the Americans, Brits, Canadians and a few others will actually commit combat troops) and most importantly in stopping the export of 93% of the world's heroin, then I think that's worth hearing about.

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog

Edwards (0.00 / 0)
Edwards has demonstrated fresh and comprehensive thinking in re health care right from the start. He's established his commitment to progressive leadership in that area as well as in poverty reduction  and reversing the current of wealth transferral.

His Iraq plan does not show any willingness to kowtow to diplomatic conventional wisdom, and IT GETS TROOPS OUT OF IRAQ. (What for goodness sake are 40K troops going to do in Iraq from 2008-2012 besides protect their own forces and serve as witnesses to the unwinding of the mess we have made?)

How can you not support him? Now's the time.

Holy shit! 40,000 troops is residual? (0.00 / 0)
Bring them all home. Our ground troops were not there before Bush lied us into the invasion. There should be no troops there now or ever. When we leave his illegal military adventure behind, let's don't leave any troops behind! No embassy, no green zone, no bases, secret prisons, torture chambers, no garrison America, no fortress America, no Empire America. No Bush global dominance vision. No Republican Party Roman Empire with 700 bases across the globe and American dominance forever. Please, this is not our democracy.

Sorry. 40,000 troops was a shock. (4.00 / 1)
Whew. Time to be calm and read the foreign policy speech by calm John Edwards. It puts me in mind of the calm intelligence of JFK.

Remarks As Prepared For Delivery At The Council on Foreign Relations
A Strong Military for a New Century
Council on Foreign Relations
New York, New York
May 23, 2007

Does seem like an unreasonably high number (0.00 / 0)
As a strong supporter of Edwards, I'm not sure I will agree with a number that high.

For one thing, the size of the embassy being built by BushCo is just way way too big. It isn't an embassy, it's a monstrosity and larger than any embassy in the world for any country.

If this building project is abandoned or at least turned back to the Iraqi people for a legitimate public purpose (think health or education), then we can reduce that number to something more rational. For example, how many Marines do we have in countries such as Israel, Pakistan or Jordan (not Saudi Arabia because the embassy number is likely inflated to cover the troops there for other reasons)?

As for protecting American personnel in country, again I would want Edwards to eliminate or at the very least dramatically reduce the use of private security forces paid by the USG. It's ridiculous to think that we would keep American troops in Iraq to protect private security forces. The only Americans in Iraq that should be protected, in my opinion, are possibly those involved in US-government-funded reconstruction projects. But even here, this should be temporary with specific plans for Iraqi forces to take over this effort.

I'd like to see a maximum number of no more that 10,000 with a justification even for that number.

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