Edwards Puts A Number On Residual Forces

by: Chris Bowers

Thu Sep 27, 2007 at 01:07

I actually turned ont he debate quite literally just as Edwards was finishing his answer to this question, and I was unable to find a transcript online. As such, I think it is important to note what Edwards actually said in response to the question:

RUSSERT:  Senator Edwards, will you commit that at the end of

your first term, in 2013, all U.S. troops will be out of Iraq?

EDWARDS:  I cannot make that commitment.  But I -- well, I can tell you what i would do as president.  When I'm sworn into office, come January of 2009, if there are, in fact, as General Petraeus suggests, 100,000 American troops on the ground in Iraq, I will immediately draw down 40,000 to 50,000 troops; and over the course of the next several months, continue to bring our combat out of Iraq until all of our combat are, in fact, out of Iraq.

I think the problem is -- and it's what you just heard discussed -- is we will maintain an embassy in Baghdad.  That embassy has to be protected.  We will probably have humanitarian workers in Iraq.  Those humanitarian workers have to be protected.

I think somewhere in the neighborhood of a brigade of troops will be necessary to accomplish that, 3,500 to 5,000 troops.

Kind of sickening,but not really surprising, that the media report on the debate quoted int he post directly below this one only mentioned the first line from Edwards. What it missed was the rather momentous even where Edwards put a number on his residual force plan. Again, unsurprisngly, they did report that Edwards then proceeded to attack Clinton for having too many troops conducting too many missions in her residual force plan.

This is progress. This is a very small residual force plan not only made clear, but couple with an  direct contast with Clinton. I take back what I said below--this is a big step forward for Edwards. The rest of the exchange can be found in the extended entry.

Chris Bowers :: Edwards Puts A Number On Residual Forces
I'll have more on this in the morning, but here is the part relevant to Edwards:

EDWARDS:  I think the problem is -- and it's what you just heard discussed -- is we will maintain an embassy in Baghdad.  That embassy has to be protected.  We will probably have humanitarian workers in Iraq.  Those humanitarian workers have to be protected. I think somewhere in the neighborhood of a brigade of troops will be necessary to accomplish that, 3,500 to 5,000 troops.

But I do say, I want to add to things you just heard.  I think it is true that everyone up here wants to take a responsible course to end the war in Iraq.  There are, however, differences between us, and those differences need to be made aware.  Good people have differences about this issue.
For example, I heard Senator Clinton say on Sunday that she wants to continue combat missions in Iraq.  To me, that's a continuation of the war.  I do not think we should continue combat missions in Iraq.

And when I'm on a stage with the Republican nominee, come the fall of 2008, I'm going to make it clear that I'm for ending the war.  And the debate will be between a Democrat who wants to bring the war to an end, get all American combat troops out of Iraq, and a Republican who wants to continue the war.

RUSSERT:  Governor Richardson...

CLINTON:  Well, Tim, could I just clarify that, you know, I said there may be a continuing counterterrorism mission, which, if it still exists, will be aimed at Al Qaida in Iraq.  It may require combat, special operations forces or some other form of that.  But the vast majority of our combat troops should be out.

EDWARDS:  But, can I just say that my only point is -- I don't have any doubt that Senator Clinton wants to take a responsible course.  There is a difference, however, in how we would go about this.  And I think Democratic primary voters are entitled to know that difference.

And the difference is really very simple.  I would have our combat troops out of Iraq over a period of several months, and I would not continue combat missions in Iraq. Combat missions mean that the war is continuing. I believe this war needs to be brought to an end.

RUSSERT:  Would you send combat troops back in if there was genocide?

EDWARDS:  I believe that America, along with the rest of the world, would have a responsibility to respond to genocide.  It's not something we should do alone.  In fact, if we do it alone, it could be counterproductive.

In fact, if I can go one step further beyond what you just asked, I think the president of the United States -- and I, as president -- would have a responsibility as we begin to bring our combat troops out of Iraq to prepare for two possibilities.

One is the possibility that -- the worst possibility -- which is that genocide breaks out.  Shia try to systematically eliminate the Sunni.  I think we need to be preparing for that with the international community now, not later.  And second, the possibility if this war starts to spill outside the borders of Iraq, and that's a very difficult thing to contain because we know historically that it's difficult to contain a civil war.

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Yeah- your earlier diary was confusing to me (0.00 / 0)
because I had read else where that he only planned to have 5000 troops total. But yet you seemed to say he hadn't said anything. Glad you found the informatin to correct the record.

It's still .... (0.00 / 0)
"combat" troops - and his opening line that he will not make the commitment that all troops would be out of Iraq by *2013* is just not good enough. I am very glad he answered but he knew it was coming and still would not make the commitment.

Sorry Chris but I think your earlier post was more on the money.

Coupled with his equivocation on Iran ... I'm still not buying.

KInda of odd, do you not think, that.... (0.00 / 0)
....no matter what Edwards says there are folks in the corporatist media and even here in Free Left Blogistan that are determined to truncate, twist and flat out lie about what he's proposing.

The man is scaring a lot of people who've invested in the way things are.

That's  a good sign to me.

I'm looking forward to Iowa and  may, if I can swing it, go there to help his campaign.

So....yeah, count me an Edwards fan.

Peace, Health and Prosperity for Everyone.

Edwards uses the stupid embassy argument (0.00 / 0)
I'm sorry - anyone that justifies our continued intervention in Iraq because we have a massive embassy there doesn't deserve to be President. 

Why should any Dem support them when they can't promise - without a series of conditions - to get our troops out of Iraq by 2013? 

We voted in 2006 to end the war. 

We aren't voting in 2008 to continue it possibly for another five years depending upon how Bush's leaves Iraq in 2009.  We have the right to have a President who can look us in the eye and say the war is coming to an end, our troops are coming home.

It's not a stupid argument (4.00 / 1)
It acknowledges what Bill Richardson does not. Richardson claims that he will withdraw all American personnel from Iraq, but he will keep the embassy, and keep forces to guard it. That's a contradiction.

Join us at the Missouri community blog Show Me Progress!

[ Parent ]
The Politics of Algebra (4.00 / 1)
Is Edwards saying he's for one brigade in Iraq total or one brigade specifically to protect humanitarian workers? It's not clear to me.

Let X = "we will maintain an embassy in Baghdad"
Let Y = "humanitarian workers have to be protected"

When Edwards says "I think somewhere in the neighborhood of a brigade of troops will be necessary to accomplish that, 3,500 to 5,000 troops"...

Does that = Y or does that = (X + Y)

I'm not trying to pick on Edwards, Obama was awful on this question tonight, the worst I've ever seen him. I'm just trying to be clear on what the candidates are really saying as opposed to what they want you to hear.

John McCain

Afghanistan as a comparison (4.00 / 1)
I use the U.S./NATO troop presence in Afghanistan as a comparison to Iraq. Afghanistan has a larger population, is physically larger than Iraq, and has more Al-Qaeda.

The United States has aprox. 25,000 troops in Afghanistan, roughly 17,000 as part of a NATO mission and 8,000 as part of a counter-terrorism mission. NATO has aprox. 30,000 troops in Afghanistan


I could live with that level of troops in Iraq if whoever gets elected holds a regional peace conference and gets an agreement that is not open ended (NATO operates under the Afghanistan Compact, a clear 5-year mission agreed to by both the Afghan government and NATO).

I think using the Afghanistan numbers as a ceiling for the U.S. commitment in Iraq is if a candidate thinks that ceiling is too low they have to explain themselves. After all, Afghanistan has more people, more Al-Qaeda, and is a physically bigger than Iraq.

John McCain

You Are Being Sensible (0.00 / 0)
Anyone who thinks we can 'for sure' have all combat troops out of Iraq at any given point in time is just not being serious about the situation. No one knows where Iraq will be in January 2009 or after so how can they say what we need to do. This is a very complicated situation.

Even all the Dem bills that call for withdrawal do not advocate for all troops to be pulled out.

It seems that the hard-core anti-war people give no thought to who would fill the vacuum in Iraq. Do they really care if Iran takes over in Iraq? Have they thought of the consequences es of that at all?

It is quite possible that a total pull out would necessitate even a larger presence in the future in Iraq and the region if we let it fall into total chaos. But yet very few on the Left seem to want to look into the future.

I know it is painful to many on the Left but for now we do have strategic interests in the Middle East that are vital to our way of life and to our economy - and yes that is oil. As much as we want to say this war was about oil the fact of the matter is that without it we are screwed and if it gets to expensive we are screwed and Bush created a situation where he made the future supplies of oil worse not better. So like it or not we have to do what we have to do to make sure that those supplies do not get worse or more expensive than they are today. That is why you hear some of the candidates like Obama and Clinton saying that they can make no promises of how long troops will be there. They are looking out for our long term interests that were put into jeopardy by Bush while most on the Left are just focused on 'now' and ending the war with no vision of the future.

[ Parent ]
What I fail to understand (4.00 / 3)
--and this is, I admit, a cynical take on the whole matter, which I think is only warranted at this point not to mention a knowledge of history--is what difference does it ultimately make what they promise, if chances are that none of them is likely sincere in these promises?

In fact, I find those who refuse to absolutely promise that they will remove every last troop from Iraq before 1/20/2013 to be kind of refreshing, because they obviously can't promise this. They can promise to make it their firm goal and do everything within their power to make it happen, but no one knows what will happen between now and then, and such promises seem empty to me at best.

Why not just say that, barring unforseen circumstances, it is my intent, and I will do everything within my power, to get all the troops out of Iraq except for at most a few hundred to thousand who might be needed for non-combat purposes, well before the end of my first term, and if it can be done, it WILL be done.

That's not a promise to DO, but a promise to DO ONE'S BEST. I am always wary of politicians who promise to actually do something that they may well not be able to do, or end up not doing, as opposed to promising to do their very best to do something. The latter just seems more honest to me. It's my version of the Bush I "pledge".

Also, I think that a more telling indication of what a given candidate will actually do as president is one, their track record in supporting, opposing and/or trying to end the war to date, and two, the way in which they describe their take on what's going on in Iraq and the surrounding region and what they think and and should be done by the US in terms of its best interests there. Do they think that we should police a slow-motion civil war? Do they think that we can do anything about it? What do they think will happen when and if we withdraw? Does it matter to us what happens when we leave? How do they propose that we deal with Iran's alleged meddling in Iraq's affairs, to what extent do they believe that it is meddling, and of what consequence is that to us? How a politician analyses a situation is a good clue as to how he or she would handle it as president, I think. Do they offer pleasing-sounding focus group-tested talking points or actual thoughtful analysis?

I think that the latter types of answers are much more likely to yield more credible responses to questions about what they intend to do with our troops in Iraq as president than ones preceeded by canned analyses.

And now it's time for me to actually watch the debate on my DVR...

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" -- Alexander Hamilton

You raise a valid point (0.00 / 0)
and my response is by failing to promise to leave Iraq by 2013 Edwards, Obama and Clinton are showing that they lack the courage to stand up to the military and political establishment that got us into the war in the first place and want the war to continue past the end of Bush's Presidency. 

[ Parent ]
But my point (4.00 / 1)
--and perhaps I am pressing this too much--is that since no candidate can know what might happen between now and then that might make total withdrawal impossible and/or unwise (and I cannot come up with such a circumstance but I can also not predict the future--to expect them to say that there is a 100% chance that they will have all of our troops out of there by then is to ask them to lie, since they cannot possibly promise this with absolute certainty.

Instead, I'm looking for them to say that, barring unforseen and unavoidable circumstances, they will remove all of our combat troops from Iraq well BEFORE this date and AT MOST leave a small residual force of several hundred to several thousand there for essential non-combat activities that is either entirely on US embassy property or fully approved by the Iraqi government, and that the only circumstances that they can imagine that might force them to keep more troops in Iraq--and more to the point more COMBAT troops--beyond this date is if hostilities broke out, or imminent military threats emerged, that directly threatened the national security of the US or its allies. At present neither situation obtains, which is why we should immediately begin withdrawing troops.

The thing that none of the candidates wants to say, probably because they fear that it would be twisted by the neocons into something quite different, is that you're either an imperial power and FULLY commit to whatever military engagements that that requires (which of course would call for a draft), or else you're not an imperial power, or at most a "soft" imperial power of the political and economic sort, but not the military sort, and do not commit to any military operations that do not directly protect the national security of the US and its treaty allies. And since we should not seek to be a military empire--let alone would our citizens support what it would take to be one--it makes no sense to have our troops engaged in imperial wars and occupations.

We don't have what it takes to be the modern Rome, nor should we seek to emulate it. Anyone who disagrees need only read about what they did in Gaul and Palestine. Only a minority of Americans are likely to support our doing what they did--i.e. the 30%ers. The rest of us need to decide what we want to be--a republic, or an empire. And since we're not willing to do what it takes to be the latter (nor should we want to), we have no choice but to not even try, and try our best to preserve the former instead. And halfway measures are only doomed to fail, and only weaken our chances of remaining a republic (as it were).

Sorry to digress, but I'm tired of politicians' answers that totally miss the mark, which is that we have no place being in Iraq in terms of our national interests--a primary one of which is wanting to remain a republic and not try to become an empire. There is no vital national interest that can be served, no good that we can accomplish, nor any evil that we can meaningfully prevent from happening, by our remaining there. So why on earth would we want to stay there in combat mode and numbers? The Dem who has the guts to say this rises heads and tails above the rest.

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" -- Alexander Hamilton

[ Parent ]
Both your comments on this are ... (4.00 / 1)
...in my opinion, excellent. I love nuance. So little of it these days.

[ Parent ]
Thanks, MB (0.00 / 0)
I really appreciate that. Half the time I think I'm pissing people off by refusing to fall into established positions, and half the time I think I'm talking to myself. Well, there's always "The Google" to avoid total oblivion...

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" -- Alexander Hamilton

[ Parent ]
*nods* (4.00 / 1)
I agree with Kovie here.  I don't trust unilateral promises about troop levels.  They remind me of politicians' claims to lower taxes and make sure everyone gets health insurance, while eliminating the debt.

My take on it is complicated, because I don't think any of us really know what the exact situation is there and until we have a clear picture of exactly what's going on inside the country.  I'm okay with someone saying "I'm going to do everything I can to get all combat troops home but I can't tell you exactly what that will look like until I get in there." 

Surgeons won't promise they'll be able to eliminate the problem if they don't know exactly what they'll find once they open you up.  They'll promise to get in there, investigate, and do what they can without causing additional harm.

What I find interesting, though, is that even with the big news about blackwater, not one candidate was asked or mentioned (unless I missed it) mercenaries.  Getting US combat troops out isn't sufficient.  Unless we get those mercenaries out of there, we'll still have a significant US presence there for an awfully long time. 

I probably have better things to do with my time than this.

[ Parent ]
Hear hear (0.00 / 0)
Excellent point about Blackwater and all the other mercenaries. They ALL need to get out of Iraq. And I think that all those disaster scenarios about how mass civil war will break out and Al Qaida and Iran will step in and take up the vacuum that we leave are rediculous.

First, civil war already IS taking place, and will run its course whether we stay or leave, so we cannot prevent or minimize it by staying. And second, Iraqis will take care of Al Qaida and not allow Iran to dominate their country, or any of its regions. This will not be like Syria in Lebanon. More like the US in Israel--i.e. we are very close allies with Israel (for better or worse) and have much say about Israeli policies but we do NOT dominate it.

Bottom line, lots of reasons to get out, and none to stay in. The question is who will have the political courage and smarts to actually get us out of there and not just talk about it. Some of them strike me as more able and likely to do that than others, whatever they say publically.

Specifically, Dodd and Obama. That would be my dream ticket at this point, in either combination. Although, I'd miss two solid senate seats--especially in CT, which has a GOP governor. With several SCOTUS replacements due in a few years, we need every seat we can get to avoid a Repub filibuster of Justices Tribe, Boies and Clinton. ;-)

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" -- Alexander Hamilton

[ Parent ]
Substitute Stephen Reinhardt for Clinton. (0.00 / 0)
As long as we're composing lists to make republicans cry.

[ Parent ]
What is our goal? (0.00 / 0)
Our grassroots Senate candidate, Jay Buckey, raised an interesting question at the house party I had for him last Saturday.  He said that we needed to figure out what we wanted to see in Iraq, before we could craft a strategy to change course.  This makes sense to me.  While I desperately want the troops out, because this is not doing any good at all (leaving aside all the stuff about that it was an idiotic idea to start with!), how can we have a strategy if we don't have a goal? 
This is so hard to say, it is so easy to say, just pull out.  And maybe that IS the answer, but I think we have an obligation to explain why.  I suspect that there is a lot of explaining going on, and most of it doesn't get through the media filter.  Even I, politically savvy as I am compared to most, don't feel like I am getting any answers to this one.  Yet we have to have them, at some point. 
I still find myself waking up at 3 in the morning and being struck by this great fear, this complete disbelief that Bush could have gotten us into such a colossal clusterf**k in such a relatively short time.  Iraq, energy, climate change (probably the one that scares me the most!), healthcare, we have gone backwards so damned fast. 
I rarely swear.  I save it for special occasions, which amuses my husband, a working class guy, greatly.  I really want to swear a lot these days.

Is the Iraq war a figment of our imagination? (0.00 / 0)
I didn't watch the debate but followed some of it on the live blogs.  I was pretty enraged to learn that the top 3 candidates wouldn't commit to removing all the troops by 2013.  Their reasoning seems to be they don't know what they'll be facing in 2009.  Fair enough, I wouldn't trust Bush with my used rock collection. 
I read Stoller's points about Edwards putting a number on troop levels which I'd have to agree it's progress but it still leaves that dark powerless cloud over the electorate.  It still says we voted for the Democrats and even they won't stop this mistake.  We go to work, we go shopping, we do our day to day things and the war in Iraq is an abstraction, the overwhelming majority knows it's raging, they know it's continuing a mistake, yet we feel powerless, angry, frustrated and hopeless about changing or ending the conflict. 
One of the top three candidates must figure out how to penetrate this fog, lest the electorate lash out in erratic and unpredictable ways.
It's not easy for a candidate to explain how America's 60% dependence on foreign oil is driving almost all of it's foreign and domestic policy decisions.  And don't look to the auto industry to shift things quickly, they are already designing the 2010 model years.  If congress enacted new legislation in 2009, the soonest it could affect production would be in 2013 or 2014, shocking as it sounds.  Cheney and Greenspan blovated that they 'feared' Saddam would dictate to the US.  With over 300,000 American troops and contractors in Iraq and a price tag of over $12 Billion/month, how is America NOT being dictated to?  A trap, a stupid one at that.

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee (0.00 / 0)
The US has built a huge fortress in Iraq which we laughingly call an "embassy". We have 17 bases, including four which are as large as small towns with McDonald's and movie theaters as well as large landing strips.

Why does anyone continue to still believe that there are any plans to leave the country? Bush has already explained the ultimate setup, it will be just like Korea. We will have enough troops on these bases indefinitely.

Both parties support the rational for this. Some of their pols are just better at hiding the reasons. In case you haven't been following:

1. We need to replace the bases we lost in Saudi Arabia.
2 We need a presence to intimidate neighboring states like Syria and Libya and make them behave "better".
3. We need to ensure that a compliant client government stays in power so that
4. Iraq will provide oil at terms favorable to the west
5. We need to keep the Chinese out of the region so that they can't make deals for the resources. Our inattention in Africa has already allowed them to outfox us there.

Now ask yourself, when (not if) the US goes from an occupying power to an "invited" presence on these bases needed to provide "security" and "stability" will anyone in the US object? Does anyone object to the 750 overseas bases the US currently has in operation?

The people in the US don't oppose militarism, they oppose losing.

Policies not Politics

Edwards has been saying this for over a year (0.00 / 0)
Glad the bloggers along with the corporate media are finally waking up on this point.

Edwards has no Frigging Clue (4.00 / 1)
how many troops he would have to leave on January 2009. He is just throwing out numbers to appease the anti-war Left.

He doesn't know if he could pull them all out or 50,000 out or none at all. I don't appreciate him jerking everyones chain when neither he or anyone else can predict the future and that is what he is trying to do.

I do appreciate the honesty of Obama and Clinton. At least they are not BS'ing us by plucking numbers out of the air. I think either one of them would do the best they could do after being handed what CW says is the worst policy disaster in our history.

[ Parent ]

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