Thursday, January 18, 2007

Beyond Belief

If I ever entertained thoughts of warming to Hillary Clinton being the standard-bearer for the Democrats in 2008, Wednesday’s round of triangulation quickly disabused me of any such notion.

Senator Clinton continued to splunge her way toward the White House with a series of appearances designed to articulate her non-position on the Iraq War.

She “doesn’t want to keep losing men and women” but she is not for setting a timetable for withdrawal. She wants to get the administration’s attention, but she is not for using the constitutionally mandated power of the purse. She wants to send a message to the Iraqi government—she just can’t tell us, any of us, what that message is.

“I am not for imposing a date — certain withdrawal date,” she said. “But don’t be mistaken, I am for ending this war as soon as possible.”

Clinton has proposed a troop cap (with several Democratic ’08 hopefuls quickly following suit—or did Hillary follow them? So, so meaninglessly confusing) of something like the 130,000 that were “in country” as of January 1.

I really don’t see the practical purpose of this. If the policy was failing last year with this number of troops, it will fail this year—and by “fail” I mean, “nothing good happens while soldiers and civilians continue to die.” A cap doesn’t bring anyone home, and, in and of itself, doesn’t effect any kind of change in war strategy by the Bush Administration. (It does, however, allow Republicans to accuse Democrats in Congress of tying the Pentagon’s hands and “micromanaging” the war.)

I do, however, see the theoretical political purpose: Clinton wants Iraq vaguely stuck in neutral and squarely labeled as Bush’s war. Don’t get me wrong, it is Bush’s war, but that shouldn’t be a hard sell for most Democrats. At least those who actually articulate their own positions—here and now.

While many potential candidates voted for or spoke in favor of a use of force against Saddam’s Iraq back before the invasion, many have done very public mea culpas or, at least, if-I-knew-then-what-I-know-now conversions.

Senator Clinton, however, has never repudiated her 2002 vote authorizing military action.

Rather, Clinton the candidate will attempt to deflect attention from Clinton the Senator by stating that the “administration holds all the cards” and by asking for things like some sort of White House certification in six months that the Iraqis are making some sort of unspecified progress before she agrees to again not repudiate her old pro-war stance or not offer a real plan to stop the senseless bloodshed. This, the Clinton team has strategized, will triangulate the space between those that know this was and is the wrong war at the wrong time for the wrong reasons, and those that believe it looks weak to advocate for an end to US involvement.

How any of the latter group plans to look strong without articulating a strong opinion on the war is as lost on me as Senator Clinton’s non-position, but I guess calling other people weak is a kind of strength. . . .

OK, it’s not.

But, again, this is Bush’s war, and the blood is on his hands. The war has made the region far more dangerous and unstable than it ever was before the invasion and occupation—and it could never have come out any other way. Bush’s foreign policy is a cancer on the globe, and the sooner we aggressively attack that cancer, the better our prognosis will be. I say all that because I believe it, and because I believe it, it’s not hard to say.

The attraction so many purportedly once had to President Bush came from his simple, straightforward, “mean what I say, say what I mean” confidence and certainty. Forget that it was all a big lie, that’s what people say they saw, and that’s what people say they liked.

Clinton’s current proclamations are without any of that simplicity—and yet, amazingly, they are also devoid of any nuance. I’m talking about the good kind of nuance that comes from an understanding that some things in this world are complicated or, as the president likes to remind us, “hard.” The Junior Senator from New York has not offered a multifaceted plan to meet a multifaceted problem; instead, she offers up the same, classic, Clintonian triangle.

She is beyond ideology, beyond party, beyond “finger-pointing, hot rhetoric,” as she called all other dialog on the war.

She is also beyond belief. Not just in the incredulous way, but in a core values way. After four years of time—time in which she could have reevaluated her position or better defended it, time in which many, many others have come to understand that Iraq is a bloody fiasco, time in which tens of thousands have been killed or injured—after four years and all that has transpired, Hillary Clinton still seems to be incapable of just speaking from the gut.

One can only be left to believe that Senator Clinton has no beliefs about the war, only a strategy on how to use it.

(now cross-posted on Daily Kos)


Post a Comment

<< Home