Why Hillary Clinton Has Shifted Positions On Iraq Again

Hillary Clinton is a perfect example of a politician whose foreign policy positions are driven solely by politics.

Initially, Hillary voted for the war and, quite notably, had this to say about the danger that Saddam Hussein posed,

“In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well affects American security.” — October 10, 2002

Don’t liberals run around saying that George Bush lied when he said this sort of thing and that it should be grounds for impeachment? But, I digress…

Although Hillary voted for the war, she relentlessly criticized anything and everything she could think of associated with how the Bush Administration was handling things in Iraq. That was the default position of Democrats who voted for the war because it allowed them to stick their fingers into the wind, see which way public sentiment was going, and then haul out their 1) Vote for the war, if the war was polling well 2) Point to their criticism if the war was polling badly.

Hillary would have likely kept that posture up all the way until the general election, not because it’s anything she believes in, but because a female Democrat running for President is particularly vulnerable on national security issues and has to appear as hawkish as possible. However, once a genuine threat to Hillary’s presidential ambitions from the left entered the race, Barack Obama, she changed directions and moved to the left.

Suddenly she supported having all the troops yanked out of Iraq by March of 2008 and she said Bush should have this whole war wrapped up in a nice, shiny bow by the end of his term so she wouldn’t have to get her hands dirty when she goes to the White House.

But now, Hillary’s tactics have changed again,

“Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton foresees a “remaining military as well as political mission” in Iraq, and says that if elected president, she would keep a reduced but significant military force there to fight Al Qaeda, deter Iranian aggression, protect the Kurds and possibly support the Iraqi military.

In a half-hour interview on Tuesday in her Senate office, Mrs. Clinton said the scaled-down American military force that she would maintain in Iraq after taking office would stay off the streets in Baghdad and would no longer try to protect Iraqis from sectarian violence — even if it descended into ethnic cleansing.

In outlining how she would handle Iraq as commander in chief, 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 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. It is directly in opposition to our interests, to the interests of regimes, to Israel’s interests.”

…Mrs. Clinton has said she would vote for a proposed Democratic resolution on Iraq now being debated on the floor of the Senate, which sets a goal of redeploying all combat forces by March 31, 2008. Asked if her Iraq plan was consistent with the resolution, Mrs. Clinton and her advisers said it was, noting that the resolution also called for “a limited number” of troops to stay in Iraq to protect the American Embassy and other personnel, train and equip Iraqi forces, and conduct “targeted counter-terrorism operation.”

So if Iraq is about politics, not national security to Hillary — and it most assuredly is — what does this backpedaling tell us? It tells us that Hillary can see that the surge is working extremely well, that she thinks it may improve a great deal in Iraq over the coming months, and she wants to keep her options open in case the polls start to reflect the improvement.

It’s easy to see why she would think that’s the case. The surge isn’t even in fully underway, but…

“Iraqi military spokesman Brigadier Qassim Moussawi said the number of Iraqis killed by violence in Baghdad between February 14 and March 14 had fallen to 265 from 1,440 and that the number of car bombs was down to 36 from 56.”

This would also seem to be very significant,

“Coalition forces have detained about 700 members of the Mahdi Army, the largest Shiite militia in Baghdad, the top U.S. commander in Iraq said Monday.

…Some of the militia’s top leaders have left the capital, and Iraqi government officials are negotiating with al-Sadr’s political organization in an effort to disband the militia, Petraeus said.

“I think in part one reason that al-Sadr’s militia has been lying low … is due to some of the discussions being held,” Petraeus said in a telephone interview from Iraq. “It’s also in part due to some of the leaders leaving Baghdad” and others being arrested, he said.

U.S. and allied troops have arrested top-ranking and rank-and-file militia members during operations over the past several months, Petraeus said. Coalition forces are engaged in a major plan, devised in part by Petraeus, to limit sectarian and insurgent violence in Baghdad.”

There’s a lot left to do in Iraq, but since the strategy shift, so far, so good. That’s something even Hillary Clinton can figure out.

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