2008 The New York Times Endorses…
posted by January 24 at 18:26 PMon
I think their endorsement of Clinton is mostly fair—I happen to disagree with their take on the candidates’ health plans, but they’re right on about Edwards’s record in the Senate, and they have a reasonable, if conservative, assessment of who is better prepared to be Commander in Chief.
However, I must take exception to this claim:
We opposed President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq and we disagree with Mrs. Clinton’s vote for the resolution on the use of force. That’s not the issue now; it is how the war will be ended. Mrs. Clinton seems not only more aware than Mr. Obama of the consequences of withdrawal, but is already thinking through the diplomatic and military steps that will be required to contain Iraq’s chaos after American troops leave.
That’s a serious misread, in my opinion. Here’s a little something from their own paper, which I quoted last weekend:
Senator Hillary Clinton has advocated that the United States rapidly draw down forces while retraining a residual force to fight terrorists, protect the Kurds, deter Iranian aggression and possibly support the Iraqi military. But it is striking that those assignments do not include the core mission of the counterinsurgency doctrine: protecting Iraqi civilians from sectarian violence, which she sees as involving American forces in a civil war.
She was asked in an interview to explain her thinking. “We would not be trying to insert ourselves in the middle between the various Shiite and Sunni factions,” she said last March in her Senate office. “This is an Iraqi problem — we cannot save the Iraqis from themselves.”
But that raises the question of whether American forces could really stay within the security of their bases if thousands of Iraqi civilians were killed outside the gates. It would probably not be long before the media and perhaps the troops themselves asked whether the nation that had taken the lid off Pandora’s box by invading Iraq had a responsibility to protect the defenseless.
Senator Barack Obama has pledged to withdraw combat forces, but perhaps not counterterrorism units or trainers, within 16 months of taking office. Mindful of the risk that such a wholesale withdrawal might lead to an escalation in sectarian killings, he has said that he would be prepared to send American troops back into Iraq as part of an international force to stop genocidal attacks. (That is hardly a far-fetched scenario; a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq issued in January 2007 by American intelligence agencies warned that the quick withdrawal of all American forces would probably lead to “massive civilian casualties and forced population displacement.”)
“It is conceivable that there comes a point where things descend into the mayhem that shocks the conscience and we say to ourselves, ‘This is not acceptable,’ ” he said in a November interview in his Chicago office. “We don’t know whether this is, in fact, a problem, but I acknowledge that you never know what could happen.”
But fighting their way back into Iraq in the middle of a raging civil war might well be far more difficult and dangerous for American forces than their current operations.
Obama is thinking ahead. I’m not so sure about Clinton.