Democrats Grossly Misinformed On Candidate Plans For Iraq

by: Chris Bowers

Wed Sep 05, 2007 at 21:46


This evening I was looking around for information on public opinion comparing the 40K-60K plans endorsed by most of the Democratic presidential field and most Democrats in Congress, and plans to remove all troops except those to protect the embassy. While I did not find what I was looking for, I instead found something much better. Back in July, Diageo / Hotline produced a poll (PDF, relevant material starts on page 11) asking rank and file Democrats what they thought Clinton, Edwards and Obama were proposing for Iraq. The question was phrased as follows:

Now I’m going to read you a list of people, organizations. For each person or organization, please tell me which of the following four choices comes closest to what you think their view is on what the U.S. should do in Iraq?

And they gave the following options:
  1. Make no cutbacks in U.S. troops in Iraq
  2. Leave a substantial number of troops in Iraq, but have them concentrate on training Iraqis and targeting Al Qaeda leaders in Iraq.
  3. Start withdrawing troops within the next three months, with all troops out within nine months from now.
  4. Begin an immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops in Iraq
While these plans do not exactly matchup with existing Democratic plans on Iraq, they are pretty close. Biden, Clinton, Dodd, and Obama basically support option #2, Richardson and Kucinich support some combination of options #3 and #4, and Edwards is something of a hybrid between #2, #3 and #4. Here is what self-identified Democrats thought the three “top” contenders for the nomination were proposing:

What Democrats Think Clinton, Edwards and Obama will do in Iraq
Candidate Option #1 Option #2 Option #3 Option #4
Clinton 6% 10% 48% 28%
Edwards 3% 15% 44% 15%
Obama 5% 10% 44% 27%

Now, option #2 is almost precisely what Clinton and Obama support, although I imagine they would quibble with the use of the term “substantial” in the question. However, only 10% of Democrats properly identify their plan for Iraq as such. Overwhelming majorities of Democrats, 76% and 71% for Clinton and Obama respectively, think that Clinton and Obama will engage in much more thorough withdrawal from Iraq than their plans actually indicate. Why do Democrats think that Clinton and Obama will withdraw all troops in nine months, when they have both clearly stated that they are actually in favor of option #2? Probably because Clinton and Obama keep saying that they will end the war, but rarely mention that they want to keep some forces in Iraq to, as Obama says on this website:

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.

Or, as Clinton has proposed in actual legislation:

(1) That a phased redeployment of United States military forces from Iraq has begun, in a manner consistent with any limitations on aid for Iraq for security purposes in effect under section 4, including the transition of United States forces in Iraq to the limited presence and mission of-

(A) training Iraqi security forces;
(B) providing logistic support of Iraqi security forces;
(C) protecting United States personnel and infrastructure; and
(D) participating in targeted counter-terrorism activities.

I wonder what the rank and file would think of Clinton and Obama if they knew that they actually supported option #2. I wonder how much it would change the campaign, especially since Edwards proposes a more thorough withdrawal, and Richardson supports an even more thorough withdrawal than Edwards. There are some indications that it could change the campaign dramatically. For example, most Democrats are aware that options #1 and #2 are more hawkish, as a majority attribute option #1 to Bush, and a plurality attribute option #2 to McCain and Romney (even though, of course, McCain and Romney actually support position #1). Then again, a plurality of Democrats disturbingly think that Rudy Giuliani supports option #3.

The lack of voter education on presidential candidate plans for Iraq is both breathtaking and frightening. Unless something changes in the next few months, voters will be in for a rude awakening when they find out that virtually every candidate for President with a real chance of becoming the nominee of either major party, save possibly Edwards and definitely save Richardson, are way more hawkish on Iraq than they are believed to be. Democratic voters might be in for a particularly rude awakening in the general election, or at least some point in 2009, when they find out the candidate they nominated is actually in favor of keeping a substantial number of troops in Iraq.

If Democratic voters become aware of candidate plans for Iraq, and still end up nominating someone who favors a substantial residual force to train Iraqi security and conduct counter-terrorism, I can live with that, even if I will work against it. However, if Democrats end up nominating a candidate who supports a substantial residual forces plan while thinking that candidate will actually withdraw virtually all troops in a short period of time, then basically our party will have been hoodwinked in a manner not unlike the way the war was first sold to the American public back in 2002 and 2003. While that will be incredibly depressing and infuriating, it also won’t be that much of a huge surprise. After all, most of the Democratic foreign policy elite behind the substantial residual forces plan actually helped sell the Iraq war before it began. The obfuscation used to continue American military involvement in Iraq never ceases, and it seems the players involved never change.
Chris Bowers :: Democrats Grossly Misinformed On Candidate Plans For Iraq

Tags: , , , , , , , (All Tags)
Print Friendly View Send As Email

This is one great bit of polling.... (4.00 / 1)
....and reinforces my feelings about what will happen when the public really digs into the candidates positions on withdrawal.

HRC and Obama will be toast unless....

They immediately change position which I doubt they will do.

The voters never find out about their plans due to corporatist media smoke screening.

Should be very, very interesting primary season.

It's always fun when your preconceptions appear to bear fruit.

Peace, Health and Prosperity for Everyone.


Further.... (4.00 / 1)
...I really hope Edwards and the others aside from HRC and Obama understand this situation and act to take advantage of it.

Peace, Health and Prosperity for Everyone.

[ Parent ]
Quibble (4.00 / 1)
Yeah, I think that 'substantial' is key. I expect that Clinton and Obama would say that withdrawing 75% of the US troops--as opposed to Richardson, who would withdraw 95%--doesn't leave a  'substantial' presence.

Misinformation is way too easy when things are this complex: Starting when? Withdrawing how many? Through when? Leaving how many? For how long?

I'd love to see some bright line drawn to simplify this for primary voters: say, a pledge to have under 20,000 American troops in Iraq by the end of 2009. Feels like there's no single standard here, makes it v. hard to judge one against the other, unless you're the sort of geek who reads OpenLeft ...


RESIDUAL FORCES (0.00 / 0)
I have seen estimates of residual forces of 60-70.000 troops from the pentagon as well as a policy institue of the Brookings institute to carry out the missions of the Clinton/Obama proposals.

These forces will be engaged in combat and their will be american and Iraqui casualties.

This will not end the war.

Clinton is on the armed services committee and can get the estimates of a residual force size  but won't because she knows the democratic base will not support her candidacy if she is truthful about such a size of force. The other candidates can also provide such a estimate.

The Baker Hamilton report estimates a residual force size of 80-90,000 troops.

This will get out in the campaign and if we leave such a force size than Nader will get a 5-7% of the vote in 08


[ Parent ]
What residual force (0.00 / 0)
size would -you- support?

I'm not too concerned about Nader: people who oppose a residual force of 60,000 so strongly that they act to ensure a residual force of 150,000 can't be reached. And are, I hope, pretty thin on the ground.

What, for you, is the -maximum- acceptable (even if still terrible) residual troop size for what time frame?


[ Parent ]
This is exactly right (0.00 / 0)
We need numbers, Chris. To say that 'substantial' is the same as 'limited' is not necessarily correct. And this:

However, if Democrats end up nominating a candidate who supports a substantial residual forces plan while thinking that candidate will actually withdraw virtually all troops in a short period of time, then basically our party will have been hoodwinked in a manner not unlike the way the war was first sold to the American public back in 2002 and 2003.

Is complete bullshit. And particularly insulting to politicians like Obama, UNLIKE Edwards and Clinton, who stood up against this war and Bush back when it wasn't popular. Back when WE were the only ones who got it.



Politics is a strong and slow boring of hard boards.


[ Parent ]
Sorry, I meant Joel's comment was exactly right n/t (0.00 / 0)


Politics is a strong and slow boring of hard boards.

[ Parent ]
Trust (0.00 / 0)
The issue is trust.  Democrats instinctively distrust anything coming from the Republicans.  But they've yet to find enough courage to criticize their Democratic candidates for failures on the issues.  It's why the "Bush Dogs" campaign rubbed so many Democratic bloggers the wrong way.

This (0.00 / 0)
Biden, Clinton, Dodd, and Obama basically support option #2
Is just utter crap.

It's Best To Keep Your Mouth Closed And Appear Stupid (0.00 / 0)
Than to open it and remove all doubt.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Disinformation All The Way Down... (0.00 / 0)
It's much more comforting when it's turtles we're talking about, but I'm afraid today's political world is not built for comfort, but for speed.

Honesty is like kryptonite.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


how do we get ahead of the curve (0.00 / 0)
I think getting a Democrat into the White House will be the rising tide, and very hard to fight.

My sense of timing says that we need to be gearing up for the 2010 elections now.  Our forces are simply not sufficiently marshalled for 2008, in terms of a truly progressive approach to foreign policy.  There is too much sympathy for reshaping the Middle East competently, and nut enough understanding that the entire enterprise is mad.

Full Court Press!  http://www.openleft.com/showDi...


Part of the problem (0.00 / 0)
is that well-informed Democratic activists that do know better, that do know where the party candidates stand on such a critical matter, are loathe to share that information with actual voters, for several reasons.  Top reasons would be (a) not to turn off voters who think by voting Democratic they are voting to end the war, and (2) not to appear to be critical of the party's candidates (that can get you banned from the blogs, you know.)  The result is uninformed voters that, as you say, will have a rude awakening if as and when these Democrats do take the Oval Office.  I read recently that Hillary thinks that there will still be US troops in Iraq when she leaves the White House in 2017.  I don't know what fool has her thinking she can get reelected if there are still US troops in Iraq in 2012. 

Iraq Moratorium Day

The question Chris poses here... (4.00 / 2)
...and which all those 'local bloggers' who got het up about the 'Bush Dog Democrat' campaign don't want to understand is....

What happens when the electorate elects even more Democrats to Congress in an effort to stop the stupidity in Iraq and the Democratic president....

Won't let them?

What then one wonders?

Well it will be an education for those who think the voters are sheep I can promise you that much.

I"ve already been part of  discussions about the idea of primary challenges against Pelosi, DiFi and Boxer with the folks at D/L, Oakland and various Kossacks in SF and it's not being dismissed out of hand. Not at all.

The pressure for change will not be relieved until there is real, progressive change. And if you don't understand that as a politician you will lose your day job. Maybe not in 2008, maybe not in 2010, although I would not rule it out, but you will be kicked out by the voters.

And not all the folks who are against progressive change are Republicans. More than a few call themselves Democrats.

They must go as well as the Republicans. And no this isn't the 'circular firing squad...' the folks I'm talking about are not interested in the party...

Only their own self-aggrandizement.

Think Crazy Joey the LiarMan. Of which, by the way, not much is heard from these days.

I wonder why?

Peace, Health and Prosperity for Everyone.


Not Out of Line with General Polls (0.00 / 0)
We broke it; we own it.  We're simply not going to leave Iraq in a mess and that's what the sensible Democrats are proposing.  That won't be going against the grain with the primary or general election voters.

After all, most of these candidates had no problem getting into the war to begin with.  Getting out is a lot harder and that's what we're left with.

Didn't Edwards vote for this mess to begin with?  And didn't he get so enthused that he co-sponsored it?  I imagine his position would be altered if he is fortunate enough to become Prez and actually meets with the JCS and gets the real options laid before him.

Face it.  Americans are hawkish and enjoy a "robust" military policy in the world.  Sad, really.


This Simply Isn't True (4.00 / 3)
Face it.  Americans are hawkish and enjoy a "robust" military policy in the world.  Sad, really.

Immediately after invading Iraq, the neo-cons were all hot to trot after Iran and Syria. But polls showed the American people had no interest.  They have to be whipped up into a frenzy, and that takes a lot of time, a lot of work, and a lot of lies.

Up until the very end of the buildup to the Iraq War, a majority of the American people said that we shouldn't invade unless we had UN authorization.  That only changed when it became obvious that Bush was going to invade without it, and then it became a matter of "supporting the troops."  This sort of bait-and-switch would not be necessary if the American people were as you describe them.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
Thank You (0.00 / 0)
Governor Huckabee.

[ Parent ]
Public opinion (0.00 / 0)
The american people voted for democrats in 2006 to get us out of Iraq.

If we follow the plans using this residual force of 60,000 troops, this will not end the war.

Democrats will pay the price at the polls for this plan.

Congress has very low approval ratings because we are not able to end the war. Realistic or not that is the public's perception.


[ Parent ]
I'd agree with the voting public (0.00 / 0)
Its not that the voting public was misinformed.  Its that this poll was badly worded. 

But I do think that edwards hybrid nature makes it hardest for people to trust him which is why they probably in greater numbers think of him as more like the Republicans.

While you didn't provide any quotes for edwards it does seem like based on your post that he isn't sticking to one opinion which makes it sound like he is just saying whatever to get elected.


And Bush was the strong leader, remember? (0.00 / 0)
People are sheep. For every informed voter there are many more low information voters who won't vote for Edwards because of his hair. Until we have some greater influence over the mass media which can control perception, which then controls reality, this will be the case.

If teaching is so easy, then by all means get your degree, pass your certification test(s), get your license, and see if you can last longer than the five years in the classroom 50% of those who enter the profession never make it to.

Great Post (0.00 / 0)
This information is great.

While the disconnect between the reality of the position and perception is a problem, I am okay with Option #3. (I assume I will get some flak for that, but I think a pull out will leave the gov't/forces in ruins, and staying in is NOT an option. Training is a third way with good potential.

Also- Chris, I am new to blogging, and am always stunned by what you and others dig up on this site.

Would you mind sharing either in a comment here, or as a seperate post some of your research methods/favorite sites?

I blog a lot over at RockridgeNation- www.rockridgenation.org the site for George Lakoff (aka Don't Think of an Elephant). A lot of what we do on the site is thinking aloud and would love more hard data to back it up.

Thanks!

We won the Battle. Now the Real Fight for Change Begins. Join MoveOn.org and fight for progressive change.  


Training (0.00 / 0)
The latest estimates for training an officer corp in Iraq is a decade.

Do you think the american people will accept a sizeable force in Iraq FOR ANOTHER 10 YEARS?


[ Parent ]
We have forces all over the world. (0.00 / 0)
I don't know how people would feel. But I will support a group of training forces there. They could be under quick rotation, and could be there for training only. And if you think about it we have troops 'stationed' all over the world.

We won the Battle. Now the Real Fight for Change Begins. Join MoveOn.org and fight for progressive change.  

[ Parent ]
Training (0.00 / 0)
The estimate is that their would be 20,000 troops for training. These troops would be embeded and would be in combat.

The US role would continue in the war.


[ Parent ]
blogging vs. campaigning (0.00 / 0)
You can tell when bloggers stop blogging and start campaigning just by looking at their links, including their missing links.

In this case, the missing link is to Edwards' position on Iraq troop withdrawal. Claiming that Edwards wants "ALL troops out nine months from now" is false.

This is from Edwards' website:

Edwards believes we should completely withdraw all combat troops in Iraq within about a year and prohibit permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq. After withdrawal, we should retain sufficient forces in the region to contain the conflict and ensure that instability in Iraq does not spill over into other countries, creating a regional war, a terrorist haven, or a genocide.

This position is essentially the same as Obama's and Clinton's. Here's your missing link.

By the way, IMHO, what Democrats should be talking about for Iraq is a PEACE Plan, which would include the withdrawal of US forces, a surge in international diplomacy, and economic incentives for cooperation. It's hard even for Republicans to argue against peace.

Saying things like "end the war now" makes no sense, because the US can't end the Iraq War simply by bringing home US troops. The war will continue to rage on. A well thought out Peace Plan is something no one can argue with.


Actually, You Mischaracterize Edwards' Position (0.00 / 0)
The difference between Edwards and Clinton is that Edwards wants to completely withdraw combat troops from Iraq and end combat operations and training there and Clinton does not.  You are confusing keeping troops in Iraq, Clinton, and keeping troops in the region, Edwards.  What Edwards plan is based on is the "redeployment" plan first articulated a few years ago by.....I am terrible with names but the Democratic Representative from PA. that ran for majority leader as the progressive alternative to Hoyer.

I do agree very much with your last paragraph.  I think we should emphasize that our withdrawal is part of a plan to bring peace to the region, a position I think Clark has been advocating for several years.


[ Parent ]
Training Iraqi forces ... (0.00 / 0)
Here's what Edwards' website says about leaving troops in Iraq to train Iraqi forces, also from the same link as above:

Take Additional Steps to Stabilize Iraq
Edwards believes we should intensify U.S. efforts to train the Iraqi security forces. ...

And when you add that to this statement above:

After withdrawal, we should retain sufficient forces in the region to contain the conflict and ensure that instability in Iraq does not spill over into other countries...

... which is about border security, you have basically the same policies.

Both Clinton and Obama want to end combat operations there as well, but leaving residual forces for securing the borders and for training Iraqis to fight al Qaeda.

These policies were all spelled out by the Iraq Study Group, and also recommended by Jack Murtha (that Rep from PA). It's all the same policy.

But like I said, as we get closer to campaign season, we tend to wear our campaign hats more often than our critical thinking caps. That's a mistake. It leads to these Pavlovian reactions to candidates based on emotional buttons being pushed and not on anything factual.


[ Parent ]
Yea I Agree About the Pavlovian Response (0.00 / 0)
because I think that is what you are exhibiting.  As Chris' post yesterday comparing the different candidate's position correctly stated, Clinton's position is NOT to "end combat operations there as well, but leaving residual forces for securing the borders and for training Iraqis to fight al Qaeda" as you claim but to continue to use US troops in Iraq to "fight al Qaeda."  This is not my "opinion" it is, in fact, HRC's position.  The "opinion" part of what I wrote is that this is dramatically different then Edwards position, which is to have no combat operations in Iraq.

And you also mischaracterize Murtha's position.  He called for "redeploying" troops on the "horizon" I think he called it.  I am virtually certain that he does not agree with the ISG or Clinton that we should have US troops in Iraq fighting al Qaeda, which is, after all, what Bush is saying our mission is currently.

I like political argument, but I think it is "bad form" to both criticize a post as being based on "opinnion" or "partisanship" while also misstating the facts.


[ Parent ]
Nope (0.00 / 0)
As the US is drawing forces fown, it should focus on training security forces, rather than bull-in-a-china shop raids and attacks. That's Edwards' position.

Join us at the Missouri community blog Show Me Progress!

[ Parent ]
Similar Plans... (4.00 / 1)
To say I mischaracterized Edwards position and not point out that the author of this diary did the same is a little hypocritical, don't you think? The author of this diary claims that Edwards wants to remove ALL troops. That's just plain, flat-out false.

Here is the Obama plan:

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

-- it has redeployment; removal of all combat brigades; residual forces to fight terrorism and train Iraqi security forces

Here's the Edwards Plan:

Edwards believes we should completely withdraw all combat troops in Iraq within about a year and prohibit permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq. After withdrawal, we should retain sufficient forces in the region to contain the conflict and ensure that instability in Iraq does not spill over into other countries, creating a regional war, a terrorist haven, or a genocide.

Take Additional Steps to Stabilize Iraq
Edwards believes we should intensify U.S. efforts to train the Iraqi security forces. ...

Edwards doesn't say how many troops he'd leave in, where he'd put them and for how long. Neither does Obama. Clinton's plan is only slightly more reliant on higher troopers levels, maybe. But since no one is saying how many troops they'd leave there and for how long -- we don't know. We have to rely on their judgment. I certainly don't respect the judgment of anyone who voted to get us into this mess -- Hillary or Edwards.

If you really want troops out, then you'll vote for Kucinich or Richardson. I don't know who I'm voting for yet, but I'm not fooled by Edwards' parsing of words any more than I am Hillary's or Obama's.


[ Parent ]
Candidate levels of determination to stay in Iraq (0.00 / 0)
What in hell do they mean by withdraw all "combat" troops? Any troops they leave in Iraq who aren't "combat" troops will rapidly become dead bodies. All of this discussion is irrelevant -- the Iraqis will eventually boot us out of their destroyed country. That's the point we've missed from the beginning: US pols and even the US military are not the only, or even the most important, people who say what happens in Iraq.

That said -- of course all our Democratic pols are hedging on what they'd do. None want to get out of Iraq; what they have is various levels of determination to stay. Richardson is simply more realistic than the others since he has twigged that determination won't be enough to enable the US military to stay.

Can it happen here?


[ Parent ]
I want numbers (0.00 / 0)
It's the numbers that are important. "Substantial" or any other descriptor doesn't substitue for a hard number. It's evasive language. "How many combat troops would you leave inside the Iraq borders? How many in the region? Where in the region and for what purpose? How many bases would you leave in Iraq?"

I have picked Edwards but support asking hard questions and demanding specific answers throughout the campaign.  So far he hasn't disappointed. I was in a room with him getting tough questions for about 30-45 minutes, and he used specifics, not platitudes, then checked with the questioner to see if he got it all. That's why he's my pick. He's not evasive in his answers.

We need the numbers. 40,000 combat troops isn't "leaving." Isn't "ending the war." The candidates should not get away with fudging on this. No one who has as their issue "End the American Occupation of Iraq" should put up with evasive answers.

I agree with Chris. We must get answers that include numbers before many progressives will be comfortable picking between Obama or Edwards.

[Richardson has the right menu but his manner is so diffident that he's not going to be a serious contender. I saw him up close, too. His speech followed our party chair's introduction which was more energetic and confident. I don't consider Clinton, the corporate client, to be a serious choice for a progressive. If I'm wrong, I hope her supporters can explain how.]


USER MENU

Open Left Campaigns

SEARCH

   

Advanced Search

QUICK HITS
STATE BLOGS
Powered by: SoapBlox