The Secret Is Out!

Remember my post from a week or so ago in which I noted that the leading Democratic candidates weren’t campaigning on withdrawing from Iraq any more than their Republican counterparts were? Apparently, the secret is out:

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.

As best as I’ve been able to determine the only Democratic candidates campaigning on immediate withdrawal are Dennis Kucinich and Bill Richardson.

I gather that Matthew Yglesias thinks they’re just kidding:

What they’re saying they’ll do will either result in us going back to a big (80,000-100,000 or more) force or else down to essentially zero.

The correct answer is essentially zero. The candidates all realize that the status quo is untenable, but can’t seem to bring themselves to see that the alternative to the status quo is to leave and let Iraq’s fate be determined by the Iraqis.

None of the first-tier candidates is proposing that. All are proposing a substantial troop presence in Iraq for the foreseeable future. MY explains this as part of a strategy to move the debate towards complete withdrawal:

One way to look at this is to try to decide who has the least-bad plan here. A better way to look at it is that the situation on the ground is evolving, the candidates are all being vague, and it’s more important to build the strength of certain ideas in hopes of shifting the entire debate further in the direction of complete withdrawal.

More than three-quarters of Democrats already favor withdrawal from Iraq as well as more than half of independents. Why would the presidential aspirants take such an approach? Are they anticipating 100%?

The explanation of a masterful Clinton/Obama/Edwards plot to manipulate public opinion is foreign to my experience of politicians’ behavior. Said another way, if Sen. Clinton is so able to manipulate public opinion why are her negatives so high?

A more likely explanation IMO is that it’s the truth, that we’re going to have troops in Iraq for quite some time, and we’d be better off debating what the mission of those troops is to be and how best to accomplish it than debating a withdrawal that is unlikely to materialize whomever is elected to the presidency.

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