Saturday, February 17, 2007

Hillary Clinton on Iraq (2003)

Matthew Yglesias disputes Hillary Clinton's recent statements on preemption and her original position on the Iraq war.
This is, however, all rather banal. Clinton is hardly an obscure figure, and her support for the Iraq War isn't obscure either. Everyone knows she backed the war and spent the subsequent years positioning herself as a leading Democratic hawk. From smacking down Howard Dean in December 2003, to calling for a larger army, to earning the praise of psychotic warmonger Marshall Wittman by attacking Bush from the right on Iran, she spent years affiliating herself with the party's miltiaristic wing.
This is a fundamental question Hillary has to address if she wants the support of the Democratic party and the nomination in 2008. Although many in the press are obsessing over whether she'll apologize for the vote to authorize the war, what we really need to know is whether she thinks the war itself was a bad idea, or whether she simply thinks George Bush bungled the execution of it. The answer to that question, would tell us how Hillary Clinton would conduct foreign policy.

From the 2003 speech Matt references:
We stand at a point in time where we are now in the process of redefining both American internationalism and American interests.

I was one who supported giving President Bush the authority, if necessary, to use force against Saddam Hussein. I believe that that was the right vote. I have had many disputes and disagreements with the administration over how that authority has been used, but I stand by the vote to provide the authority because I think it was a necessary step in order to maximize the outcome that did occur in the Security Council with the unanimous vote to send in inspectors. And I also knew that our military forces would be successful. But what we did not appreciate fully and what the administration was unprepared for was what would happen the day after.

... with regard to both Iraq and Afghanistan, we need more of something that is often in short supply here in our country: patience. I was struck, during our briefing at the embassy in Kabul, by a comment made by one of our U.S. aid workers, who had recently returned from the Southeast and had met with a number of former Taliban, so-called former Taliban. And one of these former Taliban said, "Americans may have all the watches, but we have all the time." I think it's a lesson that we forget at our peril. This will not be an easy undertaking. It will require patience, and it will require the continuing support of the American people.

... it took 10 years to create a stable, sovereign government, and we still have troops in Germany, as we do in Japan, as we do in South Korea, as we do in Bosnia, as we do in Kosovo. So the idea that we can somehow bring about dramatic transformational change in either a short period of time or with a relatively limited financial commitment is contradicted by our own history. And therefore we have not only the need for patience but a sense that we are going to be involved over the long run, or we will not guarantee or create the conditions for potential success.

Now who can look back and second-guess history? I'm -- I certainly can't. But I think it was in American interest and in German interest and in the eventual interests of our defeating Soviet communism that we retained troops in Germany.
Those words could've been delivered by any of the Republicans recently defending George Bush's "surge" plan.

Based solely on the speeches, interviews and votes given by Hillary Clinton over the past few years, it's hard to believe that she doesn't think that George Bush simply bungled the execution of a good policy.

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