Sunday, January 21

And Now Bill Richardson...Where Does He Stand?

Former UN Secretary, Energy Dept. head (under Bill Clinton), and New Mexico Governor, Bill Richardson has joined the "explorers" club. What's his plan for Iraq?

Richardson Proposed Solution

Iraq is in a state of civil war, and only they can stop it. Bush's policies have brought us to the point where we now have to choose between bad options and worse ones. We need to choose the path that will do the least damage to American national security -- not the one that does the least damage to the President who created this catastrophe.

I agree with Senator Levin that our leverage is the withdrawal of our troops.

Once Iraq's leaders understand that our military presence in Iraq is neither permanent nor unconditional They are far more likely to take the political steps necessary to deal with their political crisis.

We should give the Iraqi cabinet the opportunity to discuss the details of our departure with us and to make suggestions, but we need to establish a 2007 departure date.

If the Iraqi government agrees, we should announce jointly that our mission is over, and that we will leave by the specified date. If they doon't agree, we should announce that date without them.

We should harbor no illusions. This withdrawal will not be pretty. People will die. But fewer will die than if we stay. There are no guarantees that our departure will end the civil war. But it is sure to continue so long as we stay.

The Iraqis might, or might not, resolve their political crisis. It is up to them. They distrust and fear one another, and this makes it very tough.

But they share one goal they don't want to destroy their own country. To save it, they need to stop killing each other and start compromising

And we need to get out of the way. And then we have a moral obligation to help.

Once we are on our way out, I believe we can be helpful in the following ways:

First, we should encourage national reconciliation talks.

Second, we should work with the Iraqis and the UN to convene a regional conference similar to the Dayton conference that produced a settlement in Yugoslavia. .

Third, the United States must lead the way on economic assistance for reconstruction. Working with the UN, the Europeans and other countries

And for our own security, we must return National Guard troops to their States, where they are needed, and redeploy troops to Afghanistan, to knock down the resurgent Taliban.

Redeployment from Iraq will help us rebuild our military, so we can negotiate from a position of strength with countries like Iran, Syria and North Korea. One thing the Bush administration has never understood is that diplomacy and military power are not alternatives to one another, but rather are complementary sources of strength. Because diplomacy without power is weak, and power without diplomacy is blind.

There are no quick or easy answers to the crisis in Iraq. Our choices are between bad options and worse ones.

Some prefer military escalation. Some choose staying the course. These options are illusions. The only realistic choice we have is to stand down militarily, and let the Iraqis stand up and face the political crisis which only they can resolve.

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