Q&A: 3 Candidates on U.S. Security, Veterans' Affairs
Here is how the candidates answered 16 questions about American security and veterans' affairs.
What would you change about the direction of the war in Iraq?
Barack Obama: There is no military solution in Iraq, and there never was. The best way to protect our security and to pressure Iraq's leaders to resolve their civil war is to immediately begin to remove our combat troops. In order to end this war responsibly, I will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. We can responsibly remove 1 to 2 combat brigades each month. If we start with the number of brigades we have in Iraq today, we can remove all of them 16 months. After this redeployment, we will leave enough troops in Iraq to guard our embassy and diplomats, and a counterterrorism force to strike al-Qaida if it forms a base that the Iraqis cannot destroy.
We need to launch the most aggressive diplomatic effort in recent history to reach a new compact in the region. This effort should include all of Iraq's neighbors, and we should also bring in the United Nations Security Council. All of us have a stake in Iraq's stability. It's time to make this less about what America is trying to do for Iraq, and more about what the world can do with Iraq. This compact must secure Iraq's borders, keep neighbors from meddling, isolate al-Qaida, and support Iraq's unity.
We also need a major international initiative to address Iraq's humanitarian crisis. It's time to form an international working group with the countries in the region, our European and Asian friends, and the United Nations. The State Department says it has invested $183 million on displaced Iraqis this year -- but that is not nearly enough. We can and must do more. We should up our share to at least $2 billion to support this effort; to expand access to social services for refugees in neighboring countries; and to ensure that Iraqis displaced inside their own country can find safe-haven.
Hillary Clinton: To strengthen national security and begin to relieve the strain on our armed forces, we need to end the war in Iraq, begin bringing our troops home safely and responsibly, and stabilize Iraq.
As President, I will convene my senior military leadership and will direct them to draw up a clear, comprehensive plan for bringing our troops home, beginning in 60 days. I will pursue a new diplomatic initiative in the region, including convening a regional stabilization meeting early in my Presidency to develop and implement a strategy to stabilize Iraq. I will lead an international effort under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to address the major refugee crisis created by this war. My plan will also ensure that the United States maintains a small and effective counterterrorism force in Iraq and the region to ensure al-Qaida never gains a capability to attack the United States or its allies from Iraq.
John McCain: Over the next 18 months, Iraq will conduct two landmark elections -- for provincial governments and for the national government. If we sustain the current progress, those elections can be held in relative freedom and security for the first time since the fall of Saddam. We should welcome a larger United Nations role in supporting the elections under the capable leadership of its Special Envoy, Steffan de Mistura, who is already playing a key role in mediating disputes in areas like Kirkuk.
Throughout this period, we must continue to help the Iraqis protect themselves against the terrorists and the insurgents. We must press ahead against the radical Shiite militias and the Iranian- backed Special Groups, and support the Iraqi government's efforts to defeat them. We must continue to support the Sunni volunteers of the Iraqi Awakening as they stand up to al-Qaida in Iraq, especially in the ongoing battle for Mosul. And we must continue to build the capacities of the Iraqi Security Forces so that they can play an increasingly strong and neutral role in suppressing sectarian violence. …