I am no fan of Senator Clinton. I think she has shown almost no leadership the entire time she has been in the Senate. I think she has sat by while the worst administration in US history ran roughshod over the United States Senate and the Democratic Party.
I am certainly not a supporter of the Iraq War or the so-called surge. They are two of the most painfully wrong-headed ideas I have seen in my lifetime. I have been against this war from the very beginning. In fact, we were the only people left on the national airwaves doing a show that argued against invading Iraq (after Donahue was fired from MSNBC our small radio show on Sirius was the only thing carried nationwide opposed to this senseless invasion).
Now that I've clarified my position on the issues, let me defend Hillary Clinton's statements on the surge. Senator Clinton never said the escalation in Iraq was working. She did not support the surge or argue that we should keep troops in for a longer period of time.
There are senseless, foolish Democrats who do say these things. They might very well undermine the enormous effort everyone has put in to pressure Bush to make sensible withdrawal plans. But Sen. Clinton is not one of these people right now.
She actually said, "We've begun to change tactics in Iraq, and in some areas -- particularly in Al Anbar Province -- it's working. We're just years too late changing our tactics." And she is right.
Our strategic decision to work with the Sunni tribal leaders in the Anbar province is working. But this was not a military victory. Quite the opposite, now our military has to fight less in that area because the Iraqi Sunnis are doing the fighting for us. In fact, we could have made this deal without any troops in the area. We are providing resources and weapons to Sunni fighters against Al Qaeda. We hardly need any boots on the ground to that. We do similar operations all over the world without any ground troops.
The violence in Baghdad is a more complicated picture. That might also be down somewhat, but as many others have pointed out that's because the violence has moved elsewhere and "they ran out of people to kill." The ethnic cleansing has been so successful that there aren't a whole lot of other people to kill in what used to be mixed neighborhoods.
But Senator Clinton never said the surge in its entirety was working. She didn't even mention Baghdad, as I just did. She said that some parts of our new tactics are working - and that it's too late. She is also right about that. Why is it too late?
Because the real solution in Iraq is one that brings the warring partiers together. And right now we have not found that political solution, nor is there any hope on the horizon that we will ever do so. Even if we poured a million troops into Iraq and placated Baghdad and every other region, it would still be temporary. As soon as we took our finger out of the dam, it would still burst. There is no viable long term solution here. That is why all of this fighting on the ground to secure territory is meaningless.
President Bush claims he is trying to give the Iraqi government breathing space to make a deal. But they don't want breathing space to make a deal with the Sunnis. They want breathing space to kill them and take over their areas, mainly Baghdad. As long as Bush refuses to recognize this plainly obvious fact, all the breathing space in the world isn't going to help.
Al Qaeda has always been a small part of the problem in Iraq. It was nonetheless a problem that we needed to address. I have always argued that the best way to do so was to empower local Iraqis to take charge of their own sections of Iraq. This would provide an incentive for them to police their own. Now, we have adopted this policy and it has worked (read what I wrote nearly two years ago to see the plan that the military wound up adopting with the Sunnis -- and blindly partisan conservatives say the people opposed to the war have no constructive solutions; nothing could be further from the truth, we're the people who have been trying to find a sane solution throughout)
Now that we have done a respectable job of driving Al Qaeda from the Anbar province, we have all the more reason to plan for a withdrawal. Al Qaeda was our dog in the fight. Now that that has been largely addressed, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to stay in the middle of Iraq's civil war.
This Iraqi government will never make deal with the Sunnis because they don't want to make a deal. They are interested in protecting Shiite power. The longer we ignore that fact, the longer we are going to get ourselves in trouble and continue to arm and train an army whose natural loyalties will one day lie with Iran (if they don't already do so).
If Senator Clinton was pointing out the success in the Anbar province as a way of arguing for withdrawal rather than as an argument for a longer occupation - which is what I think she was doing - then she has it right. Mission accomplished. Al Qaeda has been flushed out. Now, let's get our troops to the province where they actually belong, the United States.