Is national security still an issue for democrats? Some of the candidates have generated voter support on the reasonable assumption that their experience would enable them to make good decisions on national security matters. Certainly that is part of the support for Clinton, and it is a reason why I support Biden. But not much is being said about exactly what the next president should do about the military aspects of our foreign policy, other than a few obvious caveats such as not invading other countries without sufficient cause.
My concern here, and my one misgiving about my support for Biden, is that if at the beginning of 2007 we had followed the advice of any of the Democratic candidates we would have withdrawn tens of thousands of troops from Iraq by this time, with more on the way. Good, some say.
Disastrous, I say. No one knows for sure what would have happened had we followed the Senator Reed/Speaker Pelosi prescription for Iraq, which was supported by all the Democratic candidates and our Congressional representatives, Hodes and Shea-Porter, but I believe Iraq would have been even more violent and unstable now than it was in January 2007 had we done so. It is especially hard to imagine how Iraq could be in as good a situation today as is, had we begun withdrawing early this year. The evidence is very strong that the situation in Iraq improved in part because of the "surge," and most important, the change of leadership in the Pentagon (Secretary Gates) and in Iraq (Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus).
Invading Iraq was stupid, the majority of us are in agreement on that. But like the dropped piece of fine china, you can't go back in time and "undrop" it, you're stuck with the consequences of your slippery fingers. We now owe it to the world, ourselves, and the Iraqis in particular, to make the best of our initial bad decision.If we Democrats weren't strong enough or smart enough last January to tell the American people that we must stand up to Al-Queda in Iraq and finish the job we started there, can we be trusted to make the hard choices necessary to protect this country from those who would destroy it?
I think we are, but I am concerned about the positions on the war in Iraq that all the candidates espoused last January. Governor Richardson and Representative Kucinich still advocate an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. The other candidates have tempered their positions somewhat, but none can bring him or herself to say that Bush was right on the issue of the surge. I think that indicates a failure of leadership.
I do give Biden credit for being willing to speak out early about Iraq, and to be the only one to offer the framework of a plan for the way forward in Iraq. Some aspects of the Biden plan are already being implemented in Iraq, even though his plan is not official U.S. policy, but even he wasn't willing to commit more troops to help make his plan a success.