I've been thinking about the Iraq plan that Clinton announced yesterday. I don't know all of the specifics, but in its broad outlines there are two major components: 1) Stop funding the various Iraqi institutions unless they achieve certain objectives (this we'll call the stop funding Shiite death squads component). 2) Cap the number of American service personnel in Iraq at where it was January 1. She's also going to co-sponsor the non-binding resolution opposing the escalation, but her plan is basically the same with or without that resolution.
The first component is something that Congress can do on its lonesome because there is only so much money in the pot right now. And it frames the issue in such a way that will minimize the "why do you hate the troops?" nonsense. And it puts real pressure on the administration and it, you know, stops funding death squads. But ultimately it doesn't do anything about the troop levels in Iraq.
That's why there's a second component. It'll be tough to actually pass a thing with either the president's signature or enough Republican defections to get to veto-proof. Still, there are a lot of Republicans who don't want to run for reelection the war around their neck, and who knows, maybe some honestly opposed to the war too. And this is something tangible that they can do to end it. It's worth pushing a Democratic position that involves hard numbers even if it's a long shot because crazier things have happened than passing something like that.
The sum of this is hopefully real change in the war. Maybe like with her leadership on the minimum wage, this gets the issue some more traction (that and opposition to the escalation already being popular and the election results).
It also re-defines the center. Having a position to the "left" of the nonbinding resolution makes that resolution more centrist and makes it an easier pill to swallow for Republicans and for other Democratic hawks. In a sense, it gives some Senators and Representatives cover to go further than they might otherwise go.
Cross posted at Washingtonians for Hillary Clinton