John Edwards Speaks Out
Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards has bet his campaign on winning early in the primary season, and no place is more important to him than Iowa. He hasn't stopped running there, he says, since he finished second to John Kerry in 2004's first-in-the-nation contest. Though consistently in third place nationally behind Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the former North Carolina senator has had outsize influence on his opponents, staking out aggressive positions on issues from providing universal healthcare to rejecting contributions from lobbyists. During an Iowa bus tour last week, with his wife, Elizabeth, at his side, Edwards sat down with U.S. News.
What is your plan for Iraq?
I would draw down 40,000 to 50,000 [troops] immediately. I'd take them largely out of the north and the south. I would begin a steady redeployment of combat troops out of Iraq so they were all out in nine or 10 months. I would say to [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-] Maliki and the Shia-led government that we're leaving. We're not going to leave immediately. We're going to be around. We're going to help you, but you need to reach a political compromise. I would send the secretary of state to talk with Iran and Syria and other countries in the region to get them engaged to help stabilize Iraq as America leaves. The Iranians, the last thing they want are a million refugees coming across their border, and they also don't want a broader Middle East conflict between Shia and Sunni where they're in the minority. They have an incentive to help stabilize.
How would you mitigate the prospect of genocide if the U.S. pulls out of Iraq?
We have to have a plan, one, for containment, because this could spill outside the border of Iraq no matter what we do. And there are things to do. Set up buffer zones. Some have suggested moving people away from population centers. I think we need to be preparing with the international community for the possibility of genocide. I think America dealing with this alone could be catastrophic.
How would you confront the significant issues with Pakistan?
[Gen. Pervez Musharraf] certainly has his problems, and he's president of a country [in which] there's a strong anti-American sentiment among the Pakistani people.
He's not exactly a beacon for democracy, and he's used a lot of iron-handed tactics to squash his adversaries. The recent debacle with the [Pakistani] Supreme Court is an example of that.
[Musharraf] has not done what needs to be done, particularly in the Northwest Territories with al Qaeda, and a lot of people believe [Osama] bin Laden may be there, too. We have huge leverage with Musharraf, but we always have to recognize that there's a tension between having a long-term plan and dealing with the short-term difficulties we face. In the short term, we want to ratchet up pressure on Musharraf, and we have huge leverage because of all the aid that Pakistan receives from America. We ought to use that leverage and force him to aggressively go after al Qaeda. If I had actionable intelligence on where bin Laden was, I would go get him, wherever he was. That doesn't necessarily of course mean a large-scale invasion. What it means is we'd use the tactical tools we have available to get bin Laden wherever he is.