The Bailey Mail
March 24, 2008
2008-03-22 12:50:28 **opinion**
The two main hopefuls in the race to become the Democratic Presidential candidate are both pinning their hopes on the level of resentment for the Iraq war. Barack Obama especially is relying on it, and not only a high level resentment for the war, but also a high level of support for a swift withdrawal. But as the situation in Iraq has improved and there haven’t been dozens of US soldiers deaths on the news, the void has been filled by the slow and painful death of the U.S. economy, and so the Iraq war isn’t the biggest issue on voter’s minds at the moment. Barack Obama has repeated continually that within 16 months he will withdraw all troops but a small residual force that would continue to train the Iraqi forces, and possibly deal with threats from Al Qaeda, Obama has outright stated that he will end the war in 2009 — his exact words were:
“I will bring this war to an end in 2009, so don’t be confused.”
Shortly after those strong words, Samantha Powers put her foot in it and said what should only be thought in a BBC interview, that Obama “will, of course, not rely on some plan that he’s crafted as a presidential candidate or a US Senator. He will rely upon a plan – an operational plan – that he pulls together in consultation with people who are on the ground to whom he doesn’t have daily access now… It would be the height of ideology to sort of say, ‘Well, I said it, therefore I’m going to impose it on whatever reality greets me.”
Though Powers’ views were widely seen as a realistic take on policy making, she received considerable heat for the comments, obviously because they detracted from Obama’s campaign’s main policy, and did the opposition’s job for them — though they would have had to wait till until he had actually gone back on a policy. Ms Powers later resigned after calling Mrs Clinton a “monster”.
Hilary Clinton is being a, little more cautious, promising to start withdrawing troops two months into her Presidency and to remove 1-2 battle groups per month, but not committing to a timeframe for all troops to be withdrawn — Clinton again would leave a residual force in place.
Meanwhile the main republican candidate Senator John McCain has benefited from the successes of the surge in Iraq, having been a big supporter of the policy. He is maintaining pretty much the same line as Bush has for the last few years — stay the course — that a withdrawal would be seen as a defeat by the extremists and would only strengthen their cause. He did however take it a little too far, saying that the US should stay in Iraq for 100 years if need be. A statement pounced on by Hilary Clinton:
“Senator McCain and President Bush claim withdrawal is defeat. Well, let’s be clear, withdrawal is not defeat. Defeat is keeping troops in Iraq for 100 years.”
The downside of a withdrawal so soon after the election, advocated by both Clinton and Obama is that it may damage Iraq’s legislative elections due to be held towards the end of 2009. Among the downsides of indefinitely “staying the course” are: U.S. forces will endure battle fatigue, the cost will continue to spiral, many more US troops will die and the Iraqi government may never be able to manage the security of Iraq, if they feel they will never have to.
Truth be told, it is unlikely that the ability for the Iraqi government to hold their legislative elections or to secure their country for that matter, will stop those who would vote democrat to bring the US troops home in a hurry, after thousands have died for what is widely seen as an illegitimate war of aggression and imperialism.
In closing: I think that Clinton and Obama are playing the right strategy by saying they will withdraw US forces pronto, but I also think it is prudent that they should properly analyse all facts on the ground before proceeding to enact those policies. But they won’t even get that chance if their plans to revive the economy aren’t equally as popular with the voting public.