Yesterday morning, in her awkward pseudo-town hall, I heard Hillary tell George Stephanopoulos, “When I am president, I will ask the secretary of defense and the joint chiefs of staff and my security advisers to draw up a plan that I can use to begin to withdraw our troops within 60 days.” I’ve learned to be skeptical. Would that be 60 days to come up with a plan or was she actually promising to start redeployment within two months? Get thee to Google.
Glad tidings! In an earlier interview, she said, “When I’m president, I am going to start withdrawing the troops. I will withdraw them within 60 days.” And the end is in sight. “Nearly all of them out within a year,” Hillary promised back in January.
Had I stopped there, I might have started wearing pantsuits in her honor. (Pulling the lever is harder to rationalize.) But of course there’s fine print. She anticipates “a continuing counter-terrorism mission … [that] may require combat.” Wonder who will be handling that? Read on: “We will have to protect our interests. We’ll have an embassy there.” We “have to look at the way the Kurds are being treated,” and “We also have to pay attention to Iranian influence.” Looks like we’re going to be very busy—while getting out? “We may have a continuing training mission,” and, of course, a hasty exit would be “directly in opposition to our interests … to Israel’s interests.”
A campaign brochure vows “immediate phased withdrawal with a definite timetable.” Too bad Hill forgot that she was already on record saying, “we don’t want to send a signal to the insurgents, to the terrorists that we’re going to be out at some, you know, date certain.”
Withdrawing troops … while continuing combat; within 60 days … without a timetable? Asked by the Washington Post to explain Hillary’s shape-shifting, spokesman Phillipe Reines cleared it all up—sort of:
Counterrorism missions would not require a large U.S. presence and she has said would mostly be done by Special Forces—we deploy Special Operations forces all over the world so it would be inaccurate to call such actions a continuation of the war in Iraq.
So what about that other guy? Give Obama points for more consistently opposing the war, but he’s not so clear on the exit either. He told the New York Times, “I will remove all our combat troops.” Good news! Within 16 months of his inauguration. Even better! Small problem: he might have to send them back to “stop genocidal violence.” And yes, these would be “combat missions”—but they’re going to be handled by “strike forces” rather than “combat brigades” which somehow makes it all OK? (Hillary likes the “strike forces” loophole, too.)
He also plans to “supply armed escorts to civilians who voluntarily choose to move from religiously heterogeneous areas to communities where they feel more secure.” How long these personal bodyguards need to sit through a civil war is unspecified.
We’ve heard these kinds of promises before:
The Bush administration is planning to withdraw most United States combat forces from Iraq over the next several months and wants to shrink the American military presence to less than two divisions by the fall, senior allied officials said today. (New York Times, May 2, 2003)
And we all know how that turned out.
Before we get too excited, when the Democratic candidates were asked in a New Hampshire debate if they would have all troops out by the end of the first term, neither would make that commitment. Still, most anything sounds better than a 10,000-year occupation and “bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.”