[Marxism] Tales of the two-party system

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Aug 11 19:35:47 MDT 2007

NY Times, August 12, 2007
Democrats Say Leaving Iraq May Take Years

DES MOINES, Aug. 11 — Even as they call for an end to the war and pledge 
to bring the troops home, the Democratic presidential candidates are 
setting out positions that could leave the United States engaged in Iraq 
for years.

John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator, would keep troops in 
the region to intervene in an Iraqi genocide and be prepared for 
military action if violence spills into other countries. Senator Hillary 
Rodham Clinton of New York would leave residual forces to fight 
terrorism and to stabilize the Kurdish region in the north. And Senator 
Barack Obama of Illinois would leave a military presence of as-yet 
unspecified size in Iraq to provide security for American personnel, 
fight terrorism and train Iraqis.

These positions and those of some rivals suggest that the Democratic 
bumper-sticker message of a quick end to the conflict — however much it 
appeals to primary voters — oversimplifies the problems likely to be 
inherited by the next commander in chief. Antiwar advocates have raised 
little challenge to such positions by Democrats.

Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico stands apart, having suggested that 
he would even leave some military equipment behind to expedite the troop 
withdrawal. In a forum at a gathering of bloggers last week, he 
declared: “I have a one-point plan to get out of Iraq: Get out! Get out!”

On the other side of the spectrum is Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of 
Delaware, who has proposed setting up separate regions for the three 
major ethnic and religious groups in Iraq until a stable central 
government is established before removing most American troops.

Still, many Democrats are increasingly taking the position, in televised 
debates and in sessions with voters across the country, that ending a 
war can be as complicated as starting one.

“We’ve got to be prepared to control a civil war if it starts to spill 
outside the borders of Iraq,” Mr. Edwards, who has run hard against the 
war, said at a Democratic debate in Chicago this week. “And we have to 
be prepared for the worst possibility that you never hear anyone talking 
about, which is the possibility that genocide breaks out and the Shi’a 
try to systematically eliminate the Sunni. As president of the United 
States, I would plan and prepare for all those possibilities.”

Most of the Democratic candidates mention the significant military and 
logistical difficulties in bringing out American troops, which even 
optimistic experts say would take at least a year. The candidates are 
not only trying to retain flexibility for themselves in the event they 
become president, aides said, but are also hoping to tamp down any 
expectation that the war would abruptly end if they were elected. Most 
have not proposed specific troop levels or particular rules of 
engagement for a continued presence in Iraq, saying the conditions more 
than a year from now remain too uncertain.

In political terms, their strategies are a balancing act. In her public 
appearances, Mrs. Clinton often says, “If this president does not end 
this war before he leaves office, when I am president, I will.” But she 
has affirmed in recent months remarks she made to The New York Times in 
March, when she said that there were “remaining vital national security 
interests in Iraq” that would require a continuing deployment of 
American troops. The United States’ security, she said then, would be 
undermined if part of Iraq turned into a failed state” that serves as a 
Petri dish for insurgents and Al Qaeda.”

So while the senators’ views expressed on the campaign trail do not 
conflict with their votes in Congress, particularly to set a deadline 
for withdrawal, they are grappling as candidates with the possibility of 
a sustained military presence in Iraq, addressing questions about 
America’s responsibility to Iraqi civilians as well as guarding against 
the terrorism threat in the region.

Among the challenges the next president could face in Iraq, three seem 
to be resonating the most: What to do if there is a genocide? What to do 
if chaos in Iraq threatens to engulf the region in a wider war? And what 
to do if Iraq descends into further lawlessness and becomes the staging 
ground for terrorist attacks elsewhere, including in the United States?

“While the overwhelming majority of Americans want to bring the troops 
home, the question is what is the plan beyond that?” said Gov. Chet 
Culver of Iowa, a Democrat. “The first candidate running for president, 
I think on either side, who can best articulate that will win.”

Four years after the last presidential race featured early signs of war 
protest, particularly in the candidacy of Howard Dean, a new phase of 
the debate seems to be unfolding, with antiwar groups giving the 
Democrats latitude to take positions short of a full and immediate 
withdrawal. Neither MoveOn.org nor its affiliated group, Americans 
Against Escalation in Iraq, have sought to press Democrats here in Iowa 
to suggest anything short of ending the war immediately.

“Of course we would like to get them out right now. That sounds 
wonderful,” said Sue Dinsdale, who leads the Iowa chapter of Americans 
Against Escalation in Iraq and has seen nearly all of the Democratic 
candidates. “I don’t think that people realize what their specific plans 
are and what they are saying about it, but just that they are working to 
end the war.”

The leading Republican candidates have largely chosen not to wrestle 
publicly with Iraq policy questions, instead deferring to President Bush 
and waiting until Gen. David H. Petraeus delivers a progress report next 
month on the troop buildup this year.

While the Democrats talk exhaustively about Iraq, a review of the 
remarks they have made during campaign stops over the last six months 
leaves little ambiguity in their message: If the president refuses to 
end the war, they will.

To accomplish that goal, they all discuss a mix of vigorous diplomacy in 
the region, intensified pressure on the Iraqi government and a phased 
withdrawal of troops to begin as soon as possible. But their statements 
in campaign settings are often silent on the problems of how to 
disengage and what tradeoffs might be necessary.

“It is time to bring our troops home because it has made us less safe,” 
Mr. Obama said to a throng of supporters, cheering wildly despite the 
pouring rain, at a campaign stop in New Hampshire last month.

Mrs. Clinton has been equally vocal in making “bringing the troops home” 
a central theme. In February, she said her message to the Iraqi 
government would be simple: “I would say ‘I’m sorry, it’s over. We are 
not going to baby-sit a civil war.’ ”

Both candidates, in interviews or debates, have said that they would not 
support intervening in a genocidal war should the majority Shiites 
slaughter Sunnis — and Sunnis retaliate — on a much greater scale than 
now takes place.

Mr. Edwards, who has suggested that he would intervene in a genocide, 
has tried to position himself as the more forceful antiwar candidate by 
criticizing both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama for not pushing hard enough 
in the Senate to bring the troops home.

“There are differences between us,” Mr. Edwards said in a June debate. 
“I think there is a difference between making very clear when the 
crucial moment comes, on Congress ending this war, what your position is 
and standing quiet.”

Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut has called for the United 
States military to “begin redeploying immediately.” In a debate this 
week in Chicago, he said: “We can do so with two and a half divisions 
coming out each month, done safely and reasonably well.”

Americans Against Escalation in Iraq has created its “Iraq Summer” 
campaign to persuade members of Congress to support legislation changing 
course in Iraq. While the group is focusing on Republicans across the 
country, including deploying a blimp to fly above the Iowa straw poll on 
Saturday, it has not weighed in on the Democratic side of the 
presidential race and the fact that several Democratic candidates call 
for an extended but limited military commitment in Iraq. “We are in a 
good position when leaders are debating the best way to bring our troops 
home,” said Moira Mack, a group spokeswoman, “rather than whether or not 
to bring them home.”

Marc Santora contributed reporting from New York.

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