Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post has written a piece called “For a Democrat, Options in Iraq Could Be Few,” in which he suggests that the vision of the leading Democratic presidential contenders may not “differ markedly from that of the Bush administration.” I suppose it’s possible that one or more of the three leading contenders would pursue the Bush administration’s policy of using our troops to crush terrorist and insurgent forces, limit sectarian violence, and decrease the influence of sectarian militias. But it requires the willing suspension of disbelief to think this is likely.
Ricks notes that Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards all refused during the debate at Dartmouth to say that all U.S. troops will be out of Iraq by 2013. But that’s a far cry from embracing a strategy resembling President Bush’s. Edwards, in fact, said he would immediately start drawing down our forces in large numbers and that, by 2013, only 3,500 to 5,000 would remain. They would protect our embassy and humanitarian workers.
Clinton, the Democratic contender who counts, has shown more flexibility than Edwards. Indeed, she has not ruled out combat missions against terrorists. However, nothing in her public statements suggests that she would continue to deploy our forces to provide security for Iraqi populations — much less do so in the aggressive fashion of President Bush’s current policy — or to take on Iraqi militias.
At most one can envisage Clinton following the path recommended by Democratic Senator Jack Reed, who has been mentioned as a possible Secretary of Defense in a Clinton administration. According to Ricks, Reed argues in favor of discontinuing the current effort to protect the population, and focusing instead on training, counter-terrorism and perhaps border security missions.
That’s better than getting out; one could perhaps even make a case for this approach. But it’s markedly different from current Bush administration policy and any policy the administration would likely adopt in the future.
UPDATE: We’ve heard “convergence” talk like this from elements of the MSM before. After the elections last November, some suggested that the Bush admnistration would use the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group as the basis for reaching consensus with congressional Democrats. For example, that’s what left-wing columnist Marie Cocco said would happen when I appeared with her on Brian Lehrer’s show on November 8. As it turned out, of course, the administration implemented a more aggressive approach, not a less aggressive one.
It’s odd that some of the same folks who view Bush as stubborn and uncompromising are ready to beileve that he and the Democrats can find common ground on Iraq. I guess wishful thinking sometimes trumps even something as powerful as hatred of Bush. It’s reassuring, in a way, that liberals occasionally see Bush as sharing the same flexibility and willingness to compromise that they attribute to the likes of Ahmadinejad.
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