It was great to meet many of you at YearlyKos this past weekend. Many thanks to Gina, Nolan, and all the volunteers for putting together a great conference.
I wanted to continue the discussion we began after my remarks Friday morning. (You can watch highlights here or the entire speech here.) As I said on Friday, we need to reshape the international institutions that provide the framework for the global economy and addressing the problems of mankind that are too big for any one nation to handle -- poverty, health, disease, global warming, the prevention of war, the protection of human rights. We need to rebuild American so we can compete more effectively in this global economy - healthcare, education, infrastructure, the environment, new technology, a better business environment, new relations with labor.
We can't do these things until we find a way out of Iraq.
But we have to get out the right way, because unlike Vietnam, when we leave Iraq, we'll still be left with significant interests in the region. We'll still have concerns about Iranian nuclear potential, the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, our friends in the Arab Gulf, and yes, the security of the world's principal supply of oil. These interests won't go away simply by pulling U.S. troops out.
Over the next few weeks, there will much discussion over the September report on Iraq, and General Dave Petraeus will be at the center of the debate. I admire Dave Petraeus. He's doing his best to make the surge work. That's his duty, and I think you can see by the results that where you put American troops, they do their duty, and of course, they make a difference. Unfortunately, it's transitory, and at what cost?
We need to stop arguing over the troops or their tactics but raise the debate to the administration's strategies and policies in this region. Here's why. We can't succeed in Iraq with more troops, no matter how good they are, because we can't succeed in this war just by killing people or intimidating the opposition.
Dave Petraeus would be the first one to tell you that. The military is part of the solution. It's not the answer. The answer is the politics. We have to work it at the diplomatic level and that means we've got to stop isolating people we disagree with and start engaging those people.
The administration doesn't want to talk about this. They want to talk about troops. They want to say they support our troops, and if we question the numbers of troops or their effectiveness, they want to say we don't support our troops. That we're not patriotic, and if we're not patriotic, then we don't have a voice.
When we argue about troops, what we're doing is we're playing on George Bush's home court. We're not going to change the policy by arguing about the troop strength. We've done it. We're on record. We want the troops home, but we must raise the dialogue. Take it away from George Bush's safe ground of troops and people in uniform and "How dare you question these Generals and these people in uniform that are so patriotic," and say, "No, we're not questioning the Generals. Mr. President, we are questioning you."
The only person who can make a difference is the person who controls the overall strategy in the region. We must make the debate about George Bush and his failure of leadership.
I need your help. I need you to hammer on the theme of the strategy and the policies. Stop isolating people we disagree with. Start engaging. We need real American leadership instead of simply leading by sending men and women in uniform into combat.
Please join me to continue this discussion in the comments below. I look forward to your comments and questions.
Update [2007-8-8 12:33:7 by Wes Clark]: 11:30 am CT: I have to get on a phone call. We had some technical glitches that prevented me from getting to as many questions and comments as I would like. I hope to be back soon. -Wes
Update [2007-8-8 13:30:7 by Wes Clark]: I think there was some confusion from my update above. I won't be able to get back online today. Thank you for joining in the discussion. -Wes
YearlyKos speech clips:
Iraq -- Military and Diplomatic Solutions
President Bush, Stop Hiding Behind Your Generals. Defend Your Strategy!
Help put the intelligence in U.S foreign policy.