John Edwards’ statement on what he thinks withdrawal entails seems eminently reasonable to me:
When we say complete withdrawal we mean it. No more war. No combat troops in the country. Period. But we’re also being honest. If John Edwards is president, we’re not going to leave the American Embassy in Iraq as the only undefended embassy in the world, for example. There will be Marine guards there, just like there are at our embassies in London , Riyadh , and Tokyo . And just the same, if American civilians are providing humanitarian relief to the Iraqi people, we’re going to protect them. How in good conscience could we refuse to protect them and then allow humanitarian workers to be at risk for their lives or the work not to happen at all? Finally, it’s also Senator Edwards’ position that we will have troops in the region to prevent the sectarian violence in Iraq from spilling over into other countries, for counter-terrorism, or to prevent a genocide. But in the region means in the region – for example, existing bases like Kuwait , naval presence in the Persian Gulf , and so forth. I hope this helps explain Senator Edwards’ position.
There is, I note, a certain intrinsic fuzziness here. If you think, as Edwards and I do, that it’s a good idea for there to be forces in the region capable of responding to contingencies, then there’s still a question of how you respond to actual contingencies. What one needs, at the end of the day, is a president who’ll bring in a good team and demonstrate good judgment, not a president who’ll make good campaign promises. Better good campaign promises than bad ones, of course, but there’s a limited value to these things. On Iraq, though, we now have a pretty solid picture of where Clinton, on the one hand, and Edwards and Richardson, on the other hand, stand. The pressure’s on Obama to get off the fence.