Richardson Best Explains the Facts on The Middle East Situation

While the media (and most bloggers) concentrate on three candidates with the least experience, Bill Richardson demonstrates again why he is qualified to be president. Writing in The Washington Post, Richardson argues Why We Should Exit Iraq Now. Richardson understands what most of the other candidates do not, that it is our very presence in Iraq which inflames the situation and strengthens the hands of the terrorists who are taking advantage of the situation.

While many of the Democrats do not go far enough, it remains the Republicans (other than Ron Paul) who are totally clueless. A meme going through some Republican sites today is that Osama bin Laden wants us to leave Iraq, and therefore we should remain so that we don’t do as he desires. Beyond the point that we should not allow bin Laden to influence our decisions either way, we must also question why he calls for the United States to leave. Having the United States in Iraq attracts many to bin Laden’s cause. Bin Laden benefits as long as he can call on the United States to leave, but once we do leave we remove this recruitment tool from al Qaeda.

Richardson argues similarly when he discusses the situation:

Those who think we need to keep troops in Iraq misunderstand the Middle East. I have met and negotiated successfully with many regional leaders, including Saddam Hussein. I am convinced that only a complete withdrawal can sufficiently shift the politics of Iraq and its neighbors to break the deadlock that has been killing so many people for so long.

Our troops have done everything they were asked to do with courage and professionalism, but they cannot win someone else’s civil war. So long as American troops are in Iraq, reconciliation among Iraqi factions is postponed. Leaving forces there enables the Iraqis to delay taking the necessary steps to end the violence. And it prevents us from using diplomacy to bring in other nations to help stabilize and rebuild the country.

The presence of American forces in Iraq weakens us in the war against al-Qaeda. It endows the anti-American propaganda of those who portray us as occupiers plundering Iraq’s oil and repressing Muslims. The day we leave, this myth collapses, and the Iraqis will drive foreign jihadists out of their country. Our departure would also enable us to focus on defeating the terrorists who attacked us on Sept. 11, those headquartered along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border — not in Iraq.

Another example of Richardson’s view of foreign policy was recently discussed, with an excerpt from his article on A New Realism in The Harvard International Review.

It is a shame that our political process is largely based upon sound bites and one minute responses to questions in a pseudo-debate. When Richardson is out campaigning, or writing on his views in greater detail, he appears much more presidential than during the debates. The news media prefers to make a news story out of a comment which was clearly a joke while paying little attention to matters of substance such as Richardson’s writings on foreign policy.

Al Gore has recently discussed the way in which his campaign was harmed by poor media coverage. One function which the blogs might perform is to counter this type of coverage from the media by discussing matters of substance such as the views Richardson has expressed. Instead we saw some liberal blogs repeat and distort poorly reported news from the media without concern for the facts.

Richardson has been receiving increasing support from voters who listen to him speak in Iowa and New Hampshire. There have also been writers, both in the media and blogosphere, who have recognized this. James Boyce recently picked Richardson as the number two candidate. Some predict that Richardson will even win the Iowa caucus. The Concord Monitor has noted that Richardson is on the way up. Even Fox News has moved Richardson up to number three in the horse race.

Hopefully Richardson’s statement on Iraq will force the other Democratic candidates to either adopt a similar position or to fully explain how many troops they plan to leave in Iraq and what they expect them to accomplish. I’m also hoping that this forces Obama, the one “top tier” candidate who has the intelligence and ideas, if not the experience, to respond to our current problems to present his views in more detail.

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3 Comments

  1. 1
    Anonymous says:

    A meme going through some Republican sites today is that Osama bin Laden wants us to leave Iraq, and therefore we should remain so that we don’t do as he desires.

    This meme is so absurd that it’s really not worth addressing. Nevertheless, I can’t help pointing out one little flaw in this fine example of Republican ‘thinking.’

    If the Republican plan is that whatever Osama suggests, Republicans must do the opposite, then Osama simply has to suggest (in public, anyway) the opposite of what he really wants, in order to force Republicans to follow his real desires.

    That is such an ridiculous foreign policy that it would be laughable… if only one could keep from crying.

  2. 2
    Ralph says:

    Oops. The above comment was accidentally unsigned. It’s from me.

  3. 3
    stephen fox says:

    Why We Should Exit Iraq Now
    By Bill Richardson, first printed in the Washington Post
    Saturday, September 8, 2007

    Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards have suggested that there is little difference among us on Iraq. This is not true: I am the only leading Democratic candidate committed to getting all our troops out and doing so quickly.

    In the most recent debate, I asked the other candidates how many troops they would leave in Iraq and for what purposes. I got no answers. The American people need answers. If we elect a president who thinks that troops should stay in Iraq for years, they will stay for years — a tragic mistake.

    Clinton, Obama and Edwards reflect the inside-the-Beltway thinking that a complete withdrawal of all American forces somehow would be “irresponsible.” On the contrary, the facts suggest that a rapid, complete withdrawal — not a drawn-out, Vietnam-like process — would be the most responsible and effective course of action.

    Those who think we need to keep troops in Iraq misunderstand the Middle East. I have met and negotiated successfully with many regional leaders, including Saddam Hussein. I am convinced that only a complete withdrawal can sufficiently shift the politics of Iraq and its neighbors to break the deadlock that has been killing so many people for so long.

    Our troops have done everything they were asked to do with courage and professionalism, but they cannot win someone else’s civil war. So long as American troops are in Iraq, reconciliation among Iraqi factions is postponed. Leaving forces there enables the Iraqis to delay taking the necessary steps to end the violence. And it prevents us from using diplomacy to bring in other nations to help stabilize and rebuild the country.

    The presence of American forces in Iraq weakens us in the war against al-Qaeda. It endows the anti-American propaganda of those who portray us as occupiers plundering Iraq’s oil and repressing Muslims. The day we leave, this myth collapses, and the Iraqis will drive foreign jihadists out of their country. Our departure would also enable us to focus on defeating the terrorists who attacked us on Sept. 11, those headquartered along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border — not in Iraq.

    Logistically, it would be possible to withdraw in six to eight months. We moved as many as 240,000 troops into and out of Iraq through Kuwait in as little as a three-month period during major troop rotations. After the Persian Gulf War, we redeployed nearly a half-million troops in a few months. We could redeploy even faster if we negotiated with the Turks to open a route out through Turkey.

    As our withdrawal begins, we will gain diplomatic leverage. Iraqis will start seeing us as brokers, not occupiers. Iraq’s neighbors will face the reality that if they don’t help with stabilization, they will face the consequences of Iraq’s collapse — including even greater refugee flows over their borders and possible war.

    The United States can facilitate Iraqi reconciliation and regional cooperation by holding a conference similar to that which brought peace to Bosnia. We will need regional security negotiations among all of Iraq’s neighbors and discussions of donations from wealthy nations — including oil-rich Muslim countries — to help rebuild Iraq. None of this can happen until we remove the biggest obstacle to diplomacy: the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq.

    My plan is realistic because:

    It is less risky. Leaving forces behind leaves them vulnerable. Would we need another surge to protect them?

    It gets our troops out of the quagmire and strengthens us for our real challenges. It is foolish to think that 20,000 to 75,000 troops could bring peace to Iraq when 160,000 have not. We need to get our troops out of the crossfire in Iraq so that we can defeat the terrorists who attacked us on Sept. 11.

    By hastening the peace process, the likelihood of prolonged bloodshed is reduced. President Richard Nixon withdrew U.S. forces slowly from Vietnam — with disastrous consequences. Over the seven years it took to get our troops out, 21,000 more Americans and perhaps a million Vietnamese, most of them civilians, died. All this death and destruction accomplished nothing — the communists took over as soon as we left.

    My position has been clear since I entered this race: Remove all the troops and launch energetic diplomatic efforts in Iraq and internationally to bring stability. If Congress fails to end this war, I will remove all troops without delay, and without hesitation, beginning on my first day in office.

    Let’s stop pretending that all Democratic plans are similar. The American people deserve precise answers from anyone who would be commander in chief. How many troops would you leave in Iraq? For how long? To do what, exactly? And the media should be asking these questions of the candidates, rather than allowing them to continue saying, “We are against the war . . . but please don’t read the small print.”

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