Hutchison Backs Iraq Partition, Endorses Clinton Balkans Policy

[EXCERPTED FROM "Hutchison Backs Iraq Partition, Endorses Clinton Balkans Policy."]

With the looming midterm elections and the imminent report from James Baker's Iraq Study Group facing them like a double-barreled shotgun, Congressional Republicans are beginning to cut and run on President Bush's failed Iraq strategy.  In recent days, Senators Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and John Warner (R-VA) have garnered most of the attention with their critiques of a "stay the course" policy that has left Iraq "drifting sideways."

But it is Kay Bailey Hutchison from the President's home state of Texas who is now performing the greatest pre-election turnabout.  And in seeking cover from the woes of President Bush, Senator Hutchison has paradoxically lauded President Clinton's intervention in the Balkans, a policy she once vehemently opposed.

Hutchison completed her desperate flip-flop with her endorsement of a plan to decentralize Iraq into distinct Shia, Sunni and Kurdish zones.  In essence endorsing proposals such as those from Joe Biden (D-DE) and other to create a de facto, federated Iraq along religious and communitarian lines, Hutchison rejected the views of both the President and long time Bush family consigliere James Baker:

"We have to step back and stop trying to put our American ideas onto this problem and start trying to get an understanding of their views and strong-held prejudices and biases and ethnic preferences...Yes, it would be hard to do, but it would be worth trying. People say, 'Well, that would balkanize the country.' Well, things are pretty stable in the Balkans right now. It's looking better than Iraq."

For that, Kay Bailey Hutchison has Bill Clinton to thank.  After all, it was President Clinton's determination in the face of staunch GOP opposition to end the ethnic cleansing and slaughter in Bosnia (and later, Kosovo) that made stability in the Balkans anything more than a pipedream.

Heading up the Republican opposition to Clinton's efforts to save Bosnia was none other than Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.  On September 26, 1995, Hutchison proclaimed:

"I don't support the mission and I don't think the American people do. This is not where we should be taking the leadership role."

Just weeks later on November 30, 1995, Hutchison reiterated her opposition to the Dayton Accords plans for a federated Bosnia and the American presence needed to implement it:

"I think it is very important that we have an alternative because many of us feel that this is the wrong decision and that for us to exercise our responsibility as members of the Senate that we must speak out against deploying troops to Bosnia."

In December 1995, Hutchison sponsored a resolution stating the Senate's opposition to the Bosnia intervention.  Defeated by a slim 52-47 margin, Hutchison's resolution expressed support for the 20,000 U.S. troops headed to the former Yugoslav republics while condemning their mission.

Hutchison's fierce opposition to Commander-in-Chief Clinton's Balkans policy did not end there.  With the U.S. presence in Bosnia was reduced to 8,500 troops by May of 1998, Hutchison again called for their withdrawal following a tour of American forces there:

"The biggest picture that we saw is that we've got to take care of our troops [...] And speaking only for myself, I believe we're going to have to be more capable and more sure that when we send our troops out, it is for United States security interest or a commitment that we have to our allies."

While Hutchison's partitioning plan for Iraq is a non-starter at this late date, her born-again conversion to Bill Clinton's Balkans policy is long overdue.  What a difference 10 years, a different commander-in-chief and the prospect of electoral annihilation make.

Tags: Balkans, Bill Clinton, Hutchison, Iraq (all tags)

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