Thursday, March 15, 2007

Hillary Triangulating: Let The Howling Begin

According to the New York Times, not generally regarded as kind to moderate Democrats or lingering fanatics who do not wish to see Iraq dismembered by theological oppressors in Syria and Iran, Hillary Clinton is moving cautiously towards a position on Iraq that is likely to get her into Dutch with the kind of people who think Joe Lieberman has cloven hooves and a tail.

Clinton told the Times in a half hour interview on March 13th that, were she elected president, she would “keep a reduced military force (in Iraq) to fight Al Qaeda, deter Iranian aggression, protect the Kurds and possibly support the Iraqi military.”

In the interview, the Times' reporter thought, “Mrs. Clinton articulated a more nuanced position than the one she has provided at her campaign events, where she has backed the goal of ‘bringing the troops home.’ She said in the interview that there were ‘remaining vital national security interests in Iraq ‘that would require a continuing deployment of American troops.’”

The position on Iraq of Sen. Chris Dodd, on the other hand, has evolved in a different direction. An inveterate peacenik, Dodd, as has been said in this space before, first opposed the Gulf War prosecuted by the present president’s father on the grounds that it was certain to become a “quagmire” like Vietnam. Dodd’s opposition came at a time when President George Herbert Walker Bush had secured the backing of traditional US European allies and the military goals of the first Gulf War were limited: The US pushed an aggressive Saddam Hussein back from Kuwait to Baghdad and established and enforced a “no-fly” zone in the north. In a speech from the well of the Senate in which he compared the Gulf War to Vietnam, Dodd said no and suggested diplomacy.

His present position is a reversion to what, for Dodd, is the status quo ante in any circumstance that involves military conflict: Put the guns away and let’s talk. Recently Dodd further elaborated his shifting position on Iraq on the “Daily Show,” where he was gently treated by it’s usually acerbic host Jon Stewart, like Dodd an opponent of the Iraq war.

The Time’s reporter archly noted that Hillary’s evolving position might cost her some votes among the crowd: “Mrs. Clinton’s plans carry some political risk. Although she has been extremely critical of the Bush administration’s handling of the war, some liberal Democrats are deeply suspicious of her intentions on Iraq, given that she voted in 2002 to authorize the use of force there and, unlike some of her rivals for the Democratic nomination, has not apologized for having done so.”

Referring to Hillary as “Mrs. Clinton,” the reporter noted, “She said in the interview that there were ‘remaining vital national security interests in Iraq’ that would require a continuing deployment of American troops.

“The United States’ security would be undermined if parts of Iraq turned into a failed state ‘that serves as a petri dish for insurgents and Al Qaeda,’ she said. ‘It is right in the heart of the oil region,’ she said. ‘It is directly in opposition to our interests, to the interests of regimes, to Israel’s interests.’

"‘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,’ Mrs. Clinton added. She declined to estimate the number of American troops she would keep in Iraq, saying she would draw on the advice of military officers.”

Clinton’s more “nuanced” view of the war in Iraq may rest, one hopes, on two solid perceptions: 1) that uber-terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who recently confessed under what his representatives call “torture” to organizing and implementing most of the terrorist activity the United States, was not behaving like the Viet Cong, which refrained from blowing up buildings in New York, still the preferred target of terrorists; and 2) wherever the United States goes after its congressionally forced retreat from Iraq, what some commentators have called the “insurgents” will follow – and it will not matter greatly whether the US military retreats to Afghanistan or its camps in the United States. The battlefield will be wherever the United States will be.

Let the howling begin.

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