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March 10, 2008

Hillary Clinton Wants to Win Afghanistan, But Lose Iraq


Following her March 4 primary triumphs, when for the first time in weeks it appeared somewhat likely that she would win the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton proclaimed in her victory speech: “We're ready to end the war in Iraq and win the war in Afghanistan.”


She didn’t say she wanted to “win” in Iraq and in Afghanistan, nor did she insist that we “end” the war in Iraq and in Afghanistan. She explicitly said she wanted to “win the war in Afghanistan” and “end the war in Iraq.” In other words, Hillary Clinton wants to lose the war in Iraq.


Now it would make more sense if Clinton wanted to pull the troops out of both countries. It would certainly be an awful and dangerous idea, but it would just as certainly be a lot more logical and consistent. So why does she only want to withdraw from Iraq and not Afghanistan?


It cannot be policy reasons. After all, anyone with an IQ higher than Miss Teen South Carolina can tell you that today’s Iraq is far more strategically critical than Afghanistan has been and will be anytime soon.


The eyes of the world, including those of radicals, are on Iraq more than anywhere else – and on politicians’ words about its war. Iraq is one of the most diverse countries in the Arab and Muslim worlds, and as home to significant Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish populations, is in many ways a microcosm of the region. Its central location gives it borders with the major players in the Middle East, including Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Syria. Notably, it has one of the largest oil reserves in the world.


Perhaps most importantly, Iraq is closer than any other large Arab country to demonstrating Arabs’ ability to adopt true democratic and federalist principles.


Even Hillary Clinton cannot possibly believe that it would be preferable for America to give Iraq up to radicals than it would be to surrender Afghanistan. Even Hillary Clinton can understand the superior value of maintaining U.S. troops in the heart of the Middle East, compared with fighting to hold the desolate hills of Afghanistan.


So if it is not about strategic interests, what could possibly make Afghanistan inherently more important than Iraq in Clinton’s eyes? Let us explore the possibilities.


First, maybe Clinton would rather stay in Afghanistan for the simple reason that it is an easier and cheaper war to fight than the one in Iraq. This viewpoint is akin to Woodrow Wilson deciding he only wanted to fight the Ottomans, because the Germans are harder and more expensive to beat.


And it would be, of course, ludicrous. Iraq and Afghanistan are both just as much a part of the war on terror as the Ottoman Empire and Germany were a part of World War I. And even if they weren’t, it would be quite novel for America to turn a blind eye to its strategic interests by surrendering a difficult war in order to win an easier one.


The other reason Clinton might be willing to lose Iraq despite winning Afghanistan is just as disturbing: She does not believe we should have been there in the first place.


Now, let us for argument’s sake pretend that Clinton did not support the invasion of Iraq, despite voting for it. Regardless, her position at the time would still be irrelevant, because America is already in Iraq, and has been for five years. Along with the Iraqi people, we have sacrificed thousands of lives and limbs, in addition to hundreds of billions of dollars.


There is absolutely no question that withdrawing today would leave us with a situation in Iraq that is far worse than the Baath Party rule we took down. A national civil war would break out that would almost certainly turn into a regional war, and radical organizations would rule parts of Iraq and use them as launch pads for terrorist operations.


Hillary Clinton is fully aware of the consequences of a withdrawal. Through her willingness to surrender Iraq, however, she is in truth saying that because the war was wrongly started, she does not think she has to win it. She is, for the lack of a better word, so bitter about President Bush launching the invasion of Iraq that she will withdraw to demonstrate her opposition to the invasion in the first place.


Hillary Clinton will certainly not put it in those terms. But anyone who scratches the surface will find that little other than these two reasons justify plans to win Afghanistan and simultaneously surrender Iraq. Despite her wishes, Clinton does not have the option to serve as commander-in-chief in 2003. She can only do so in 2009, and has to absorb America’s actions up until that point whether she had agreed with them or not. She cannot decide whether or not to invade Iraq. She can only decide whether or not to surrender it.


Political reasons for ending the war in Iraq continue to be the elephant in the room. What else can a candidate say when trying to win a Democratic primary? Those voters opposed to our presence in Iraq are opposed, by and large, because it is a painful war to fight – and because they disagreed with the invasion in the first place. Hillary Clinton (and too many of her colleagues) continue to cater to these beliefs, despite her full understanding of the consequences of surrendering Iraq. She represents politics at their worst.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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