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The Clinton Surge
Hillary Rodham Bush

Mrs. Strangelove

The root of the problem as far as the United States in Iraq is concerned is… the United States being in Iraq: no matter how you slice it, an American military presence under whatever guise will not be acceptable to Iraqis. An American blueprint for how Iraqis govern themselves will not be accepted. American oversight in any way of Iraqi oil fields will be seen for what it is—a power grab at Iraqis’ expense, and it won’t be accepted. The insurgency can be painted as the one-dimensional “evil” with al-Qaeda designs to impose a calipahe or what have you, as the Bush junta prefers to see it. It’s convenient. It’s also simplistic. It denies sectarian and nationalistic conflicts at the heart of the Iraqi mess that have nothing to do with al-Qaeda, but have plenty to do with the American presence, which fuels the sectarianism and the nationalism while giving advocates of both a foil rather than a reason to resolve their issues. So it’s disheartening, though not surprising, to hear Hillary Rodham Clinton clarify her position about her long-term view of an American presence in Iraq. Rather than craft a serious pull-out strategy that admits to the catastrophic mistakes of the last four years, she is recasting the Bush doctrine in Clinton terms. As the Times reported:

She said in the interview that there were “remaining vital national security interests in Iraq” that would require a continuing deployment of American troops. The United States’ security would be undermined if parts of Iraq turned into a failed state “that serves as a petri dish for insurgents and Al Qaeda,” she said. “It is right in the heart of the oil region,” she said. “It is directly in opposition to our interests, to the interests of regimes, to Israel’s interests.” “So it will be up to me to try to figure out how to protect those national security interests and continue to take our troops out of this urban warfare, which I think is a loser,” Mrs. Clinton added. She declined to estimate the number of American troops she would keep in Iraq, saying she would draw on the advice of military officers.

Hillary Clinton Bush, in other words, has learned nothing. Like Bush, she conflates the “war on terror” with Iraq. Like Bush, she sees the American presence in Iraq as necessary not for the Iraqis’ sake, but to protect Iraq’s oil for America’s sake. Unlike Bush, she’s willing to pull troops out of the “urban warfare” scenarios and barrack them up in their own bubbles on Iraqi soil, but that won’t remove the impulse to attack them from a new breed of Iraqi insurgents. It was the endless American military presence in Saudi Arabia, remember, that gave Osama the justification for waging war on the great Satan (as he peddled it to his recruits). It won’t be Osama’s bandits we’ll be fighting in Iraq’s, but Iraq’s nationalists. And of course Clinton pulled a classic retreat when asked how many American troops she saw staying in Iraq. Her approach is a mixture of Bushisms and what Edward Luttwak, once a great fan of war on Iraq, advocated as far back as 2003: pull the troops out of Iraq’s streets and garrison them around Iraq. The Roman Empire strategy. And after Iraq, what? The most disturbing thing about Clinton’s view isn’t that she would keep American troops in Iraq. It’s what it says about what she would do (what any conservative would do, and I suspect most liberals, too), should instability spread to Saudi Arabia, as it’s bound to. She would dispatch American garrisons there, too, to take over the oil fields. Doing anything less would be “directly in opposition to our interests, to the interests of regimes, to Israel’s interests.” But then, Hillary’s Republican transformation began sometime in the first term of her husband’s administration when it dawned on her that she, too, could be president, if only she learned how to triangulate—excuse me, strangulate her liberal instincts. Her plan for an eternal American military presence in Iraq and beyond is the latest example.

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