- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Hillary Clinton served notice on Monday that she’s perfectly prepared to demagogue the war in Iraq to maintain her own political viability. On Monday, just days before the fifth anniversary of the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Mrs. Clinton sought to inoculate herself from the political problems caused by her own vote — a vote which is very unpopular with the far-left. So, in a speech at George Washington University, the New York senator showcased her latest effort to “support the troops” risking their lives in Iraq: an address declaring their sacrifices to in effect be a waste of time, the product of an ill-considered “Bush-McCain” approach to the war.

“They both want to keep us tied to another country’s civil war, a war we cannot win,” Mrs. Clinton said. “That in a nutshell is the Bush-McCain Iraq policy: Don’t learn from your mistakes, repeat them.” Mrs. Clinton said she wants to start bringing home troops within 60 days of taking office in January, and mocked the likely Republican nominee, John McCain, for saying that U.S. troops could remain in Iraq for 100 years — in much the same way that they have stayed in Germany, South Korea and Japan for decades after the end of active of combat hostilities. “Senator McCain and President Bush claim withdrawal is defeat. Well, let’s be clear, withdrawal is not defeat. Defeat is keeping troops in Iraq for 100 years,” Mrs. Clinton said.

Mr. McCain, who has been on a fact-finding trip to Iraq, responded succinctly to Mrs. Clinton’s broadside: “I just think what that means is al Qaeda wins.” Mr. McCain is exactly right. But he is far too gentlemanly to explain how nonsensical Mrs. Clinton’s “100 years” comment really was. Does Mrs. Clinton really mean that keeping U.S. troops in Iraq a century in non-combat conditions roughly analogous to those faced by U.S. troops in Germany today would be a “defeat” for the United States? Does she really believe that this outcome would be worse than prematurely withdrawing troops and having violence explode to 2006 levels?

It took an additional 30,000 troops under the leadership of Gen. David Petraeus to bring a measure of stability to Iraq, where attacks have fallen by about 60 percent since last February. Gen. Petraeus has recently recommended slowing down the withdrawal of troops from Iraq out of concern that this could jeopardize the hard-won gains of the past year. Even with the troops there, some upward spikes are inevitable. On Monday, for example, a suicide bomber killed more than 40 people in Karbala. In this context, is there any credible scenario in which it would make sense militarily to begin pulling troops out next March?

Mrs. Clinton offers precisely zero evidence that this is the case. Absent such evidence, her troop withdrawal plan is a likely prescription for more votes from the far left and a bloodbath in Iraq.

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