"In May, Mrs. Clinton wrote Defense Secretary Robert Gates with a reasonable question: Had the Pentagon done any planning for withdrawal from Iraq? What she got back was a belligerent brush-off. Mr. Edelman, who said he represented Mr. Gates, wrote that “premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq.” " NY Times Editorial
Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution is clear in stating that Congress shall have the power:
"To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces."
Senator Clinton is a member of the Senate committee that exercises oversight with regard to the Armed Forces of the United States and the Defense Department. That includes Mr. Edelman. The Senate has the responsibility of deciding whether or not it will confirm the president's "nominations" (constitutional language) in appointing and promoting officers and senior civilians like Mr. Edelman. With the House, it legislates the organization and missions of the armed forces and the Department of Defense generally. As we all know (I hope), the senate acts on the money bills that originate in the House of Representatives that fund everything in the government, including the Department of Defense. There is nothing in the Constitution that requires the Congress to give the Executive Branch anything in particular it asks for in terms of budget and authorizations.
Mr. Edelman, like many in this administration do not seem to understand, or at least accept that the Congress is a branch of government equal to and independent from the executive branch. This White House speaks of the Congress in such a way as to make it clear that it regards the legislature as an adversary in a contest for control of the government. That tendency is much more apparent now that the Democrats control the Congress and the enthusiastic endorsement of White House wishes is no longer automatic.
Senator Clinton had every right to ask if there were serious contingency plans being made about HOW we would withdraw from Iraq. A civil and constitutionally correct response to her question would not have required a public and unclassified answer. So far as I know, she does not have a record of unauthorized disclosure of classified information. Others do, (and not all of them in the Congress), but she does not.
As she has observed, it would be a massive undertaking to safely withdraw our forces from Iraq. Whether the withdrawal takes place in a benign condition following the victory that the administration still anticipates or in a hostile environment, the removal of our forces would require a level of systematic planning in detail that could not safely be made while trying to withdraw. As Senator Clinton has observed, "You don't snap your fingers, and begin to withdraw." In fact, a prudent program of withdrawal would require many months. Such contingency plans would rightly be kept secret for the reasons that Edelman mentions. Secrets can be kept. Edelman knows that. It is not true that everything "leaks" to the media.
Skeptics will say that the administration has not had such plans drawn up because it does not intend to leave Iraq in the foreseeable future. The continued egregious references to the US presence in Korea and Europe reinforce the skeptics' view. If the skeptics' view is correct, then the same flawed understanding of the Middle East that underlay the intervention in Iraq must still persist. The fact is that there will never be even relative peace in Iraq so long as our forces attempt to police hostile populations there.
We are going to have to leave as a pre-requisite for the bloody, messy process that will take place in Iraq before the warring ethno-religious nations there settle the question of who will rule and where. The victors in that struggle will deal with the foreign jihadis. They will have a lot of surreptitious help from outside Iraq.
If we are going to leave a training and supply presence behind and a much smaller force for protection of that effort, the protective force will have to be located among friendly people. I have dealt with that question elsewhere in these pages. (Someone will show you where)
In any event, Senator Clinton was not, in any way, "out of line" to ask to be told what is being done to safeguard American forces in all contingencies. Mr. Edelman should be disciplined for the outrageous answer that he gave her.
We live in an age in which the forces of anti-republicanism and anti-constitutionalism are strong.
Franklin was right. We can have a republic if we are strong enough to keep it. pl