Saturday, August 4, 2007

Clinton Winning Among Anti-War Voters

Cross-posted at the Francis L. Holland Blog
and MyLeftWing

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On the first day of the YearlyKos conference and in spite of conversing with Clinton-hater Markos Moultisas, the New York Times reports that, objectively, Hillary Clinton seems to be winning over her anti-war critics. The Times says:

The degree to which Mrs. Clinton has actually defused the issue will get a test on Saturday when she appears with fellow Democrats in a debate in Chicago before an audience of liberal bloggers, one of the most intensely antiwar constituencies in the party and one that has been particularly skeptical of - and often hostile toward - Mrs. Clinton.

But there is already evidence that she has made progress in reducing the intensity of the opposition to her among some of her most fervent antiwar opponents and in building support among the broader universe of Democrats who oppose the war.

A New York Times/CBS News poll in July 2006 found that among Democrats who said the invasion of Iraq had been a mistake, 56 percent said they had a favorable view of Mrs. Clinton's performance. A year later, that figure had risen to 69 percent. Her standing during that period among all Democrats has also shown improvement. On the campaign trail, antiwar protests at her appearances are less frequent and less loud. New York Times

Clinton has said, and it stands to reason based on what we know of past Clinton Administrations, that,
"If we in Congress don't end this war before January of 2009, as president I will." New York Times

The New York Times reported today the observations of one of Clinton's chief surrogates on foreign policy matters, Madeleine K. Albright, that the public is accepting that Clinton will use her political strength and experience to end the Iraq War:

Madeleine K. Albright, the former secretary of State, who is advising Mrs. Clinton on Iraq and other foreign policy issues, said, "Through the spring she became increasingly frustrated with the fact that the administration didn't seem to listen."

"You begin to kind of say, 'O.K., now what? We need an answer,' " Ms. Albright said. "She was feeling a necessity to send a stronger and stronger message." New York Times

There's still some disagreement on the Left whether Clinton will end the war in Iraq and how quickly. Personally, if I did not rely on what I know of Bill Clinton's foreign policy, then I would be equally skeptical of Hillary Clinton's intentions now.

However, I am convinced that just as Bush's foreign policy was presaged by the hiring of the old Nixon team members like Cheney, Hillary's foreign policy is presaged by her chief foreign policy aides, like Albright and the big dog himself, Bill Clinton.

No one can point to a single long-running war or bloody conflict during the first Clinton Adminstration that would presage and extended conflict during a second Clinton Administration. Quite to the contrary, the Northern Ireland civil war was resolved peacefully with leadership from Bill Clinton; the Bosnian Civil War was resolved peacefully with virtually no US casualties during negotiations that culminated in the Dayton (Ohio) Peace Accords under Bill Clinton's leadership; and the military strikes that followed attacks on the US military were measured and targeted, with limited loss of life, particularly compared to the current Administration.

When Clinton intervened unsuccessfully in Somalia, he knew when to cut America's losses and get the hell out:

Once President Clinton was inaugurated he stated his desire to scale down the U.S. presence in Somalia, and to let the U.N. forces take over. In March 1993 the U.N. officially took over the operation, naming this mission UNOSOM - II. The objective of this mission was to promote "nation building" within Somalia. One main target was to disarm the Somali people. UNOSOM - II stressed restoring law and order, improving the infrastructure, and assisting the people with setting up a representative government.

President Clinton supported the U.N. mandate and ordered the number of U.S. troops in Somalia reduced, to be replaced by U.N. troops. By June 1993, only 1200 U.S. troops remained in Somalia, but on June 5, 1993 24 Pakistani soldiers were ambushed and killed during the inspection of a Somali arms weapons storage site. The U.N. responded with an emergency resolution to apprehend those responsible. While it was not specifically stated, Aidid and his followers were believed to be responsible. On June 19, 1993 Admiral Howe ordered Aidid's arrest and offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to this. He also requested a counterterrorist rescue force after the massacre of the Pakistani troops.

From June 12 through June 16 U.S. and U.N. troops attacked targets in Mogadishu related to Aidid. On July 12 U.S. Cobra helicopters attacked a house in Mogadishu where clan leaders were meeting. They destroyed several buildings and many Somalis were killed. When four Western journalists went to investigate the scene they were beaten to death by a mob of Somalis. On August 8 four U.S. military police were killed when a land mine was remote-detonated by Somalis. Two weeks later, six more U.S. soldiers were wounded. It was at this point that Task Force Ranger was deployed to Somalia.

On August 29 Task Force Ranger flew into Mogadishu. They were led by General William Garrison and consisted of 440 elite troops from Delta Force. Their mission was to capture Aidid. But, at the same time, in September 1993 the Clinton Administration began a secret plan to negotiate with Aidid. U.S. military commanders within Somalia were not apprised of this. U.S. Defense Secretary Les Aspin denied a request for armored reinforcements made by General Montgomery.

On October 3, 1993 Task Force Ranger raided the Olympic Hotel in Mogadishu to search for Aidid. This led to a seventeen-hour battle in which eighteen U.S. soldiers were killed and eighty-four were wounded. Bodies of dead American soldiers were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, shown on international news reports. Hundreds of Somalis also died, although the official number has never been released. This was the longest, most bloody battle for U.S troops since the Vietnam War. On October 7 President Clinton responded by withdrawing U.S. troops from Somalia. The hunt for Aidid was abandoned, although U.S. representatives were sent to resume negotiations with clan leaders. Nova Online

Because Clinton was able to acknowledge when he was fighting a battle that could not be won, loss of life was immeasurably less on both sides.

Some people point to Clinton's failure to intervene in the Rwandan civil war as a mark of "shame" for his Administration, saying:

the most powerful man on earth - who not only refused to intervene to save 800,000 people from being hacked to death, but declined to even convene his Cabinet to discuss the crisis. WorldNetDaily.Com
When you compare that performance to George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq, you begin to see what a gift Bill Clinton was to America foreign policy. Whereas Clinton failed to intervene in an ongoing civil war and let others hack others to death, Bush intervened in a country that was relatively peaceful so that US soldiers could hack others to death. See the difference? Clinton, at worse, was guilty of failing to intervene when intervention arguably would have failed and also led to more loss of life on both sides. Bush took a situation of relative peace and turned it into a all-out war that has killed hundreds of thousands, dislocated even more, and all for no purpose that any reasonable person would endorse.

I trust that the Clintons, once elected, will perform more or less as they did last time, seeking opportunities to quell conflicts through negotiation and passing on opportunities to create needless shooting wars.

People with less experience might try to accomplish the same thing, but there is no guarantee that they will succeed. In fact, precisely because of their inexperience they would be under tremendous pressure to use force in ongoing wars or be perceived as week. And lacking the ability to immediately engage in intense negotiations based on past experience, they could be rushed into reckless actions by others who don't value peace as much as the Clintons do.

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