Michael Steele on War & Peace

Republican challenger, Lt. Gov.


We need a clear strategy, and to pressure Iraq gov’t

Q: On Iraq, in July you said, “For me, staying the course, yes.” Two weeks later you said, “It didn’t work. We didn’t prepare for the peace.” And then when asked if you agreed with the management of the war, “By & large, absolutely, yeah.” And then 10 days ago: “The situation is not going well on the ground. We are getting deeper and deeper into a mess.” Where are you on Iraq?

A: The war in Iraq right now stands with a mess that we need to fix. We are at a point right now where there is no clear strategy. Going forward, what is the strategy? Put in place the benchmarks, put the pressure on the Iraqi government to lay out very clearly and very forcefully that they’re committed to democracy.

Q: Did the Bush administration help create this mess?

A: The Defense Department did not give the president the kind of strategy that he needed to prosecute this war. From the beginning we didn’t have enough troops on the ground, from the beginning there was no clear decision to win the peace here.

Source: 2006 Maryland Senate debate on Meet the Press , Oct 29, 2006

Iraq war worth it, to establish beachhead of democracy

Q: Do you believe the war has been worth the price we’ve paid in lives and costs?

A: I think the war has been worth it to the extent that what we’re trying to establish there is a beachhead of democracy. When we walk out of Iraq, what do we want? Do we want an Iraq that’s an ally of the US, or do we want an Iraq that is an enemy of the US? We want an ally, so it’s been worth it to us to establish this beachhead of democracy and an ally in an area where we’ve had some trouble in the past.

Source: 2006 Maryland Senate debate on Meet the Press , Oct 29, 2006

Would still vote for the Iraq war even there were no weapons

I would think we’d still prosecute the war. But what I would do, if we’re going to do it, let’s make sure we have the right complement of personnel on the ground and that we are looking forward in this and not looking backwards. And that’s where I am right now: What are we going to do, what is our strategy to begin to move our soldiers home and have Iraqi government and leadership move forward and keeping what they want in Iraq?
Source: 2006 Maryland Senate debate on Meet the Press , Oct 29, 2006

Withdrawal is on the table if Iraqis want a civil war

If the Iraqi people don’t want this, if they are content to have this internal strife, they want civil war, they want this, this terrorist beachhead to be formed, then we will have to re-evaluate our policy, and our foreign policy position with respect to that country. And that would be on the table, absolutely.
Source: 2006 Maryland Senate debate on Meet the Press , Oct 29, 2006

Make sure we leave behind in Iraq is an ally

Q: I asked you if the status quo was the same six months from now, you said “Get out.” So what would Iraq look like six months from now?

A: What we need to make sure we leave behind in Iraq is an ally, not an enemy. What we need to do is make certain that, whether it’s looking at the Biden plan in terms of a trifurcation or looking at a whole Iraq, this is the conversation we need to get into right now that we haven’t. What we have done, ostensibly, for the last three years, is slowly march towards nothing. A few weeks ago, the Iraqi government took control of its military. That is a notable benchmark. But there are so many others that we need to reach, and so many others that we have to do, that together will move us in a direction towards putting in place a stable Iraq that we can rely on as an ally, and not just sort of, “Well, we withdraw the troops or we don’t fund them.” That is not the strategy. What is your, what is your goal to put the pressure on the Iraqi government?

Source: 2006 Maryland Senate debate on Meet the Press , Oct 29, 2006

Yes, I would have authorized the use of force in Iraq

CARDIN: I voted against the war four years ago and then to support the appropriations bill so our troops are safe, with the body armor and equipment they need. .

STEELE: We applaud you for that vote against the war, but.

Q: You applaud him for that vote?

STEELE: No, I think it was a wrong-headed vote.

Q: But you said you applaud him.

STEELE: I applaud that he stood behind his vote, but that was the only time we’ve heard from him. You put out a plan that said “Let’s have a plan.” Where’s your strategy to bring our boys and girls home and leave behind a more stable and stronger Iraq?

Q: What’s your plan?

STEELE: I think we need discernible benchmarks. We need clarity of mission, and what we should show as progress of the Iraqi government taking control.

CARDIN: Would you have voted for war four years ago?

STEELE: Yes, I would have authorized the use of force, to deal with the terror that was there.

Source: MD 2006 3-way Senate Debate on NewsChannel 8 , Oct 25, 2006

Israel has the right to defend itself against Hezbollah

Michael Steele came down squarely on the side of Israel in its conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon and called for more time for diplomatic efforts. As a sovereign nation, Israel has the right to defend itself, said Steele. “Israel was attacked. I’ve been appalled by the fact that people seem to play that down and have gotten to the point where they are now blaming Israel for what’s happening. A cease-fire will come on terms that are hopefully favorable to both sides, but certainly on terms that will not put Israel at greater harm or disadvantage,“ he said.

Because Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, Israel’s strong reaction is justified, he said. ”You don’t give them any leverage or any upper hand in any conflict you have with them,“ Steele said. ”Your goal should be to take them out. Period. As quickly as you can.“

Source: Clifford Cumber inteview in Frederick News-Post , Aug 8, 2006

No timetable for Iraq; don’t second-guess the president

Steele said there has been substantial success in Iraq. He opposes a timetable for the withdrawal of troops. He declined to highlight any potential errors in judgment by either President Bush or Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. “I’m not going to sit and second guess the judgment of the president,” Steele said.
Source: Clifford Cumber inteview in Frederick News-Post , Aug 8, 2006

No cut and run strategy in Iraq

Q What further investment--monetary and military--should the US make in Iraq?

A: It is imperative we improve conditions on the ground so we can bring our troops home as quickly as possible and have the Iraqi people take control of their own destiny. At the same time, we should not publicly state a timetable for implementation. I do not support a “cut and run strategy.” Any politician out there talking about timetables and timelines is playing into the hands of our enemies who have an enormous capacity to wait. It would be a disaster for us to cut and run, as it would destroy our credibility in the region for at least a generation. At the same time, it is the Iraqis themselves that will ultimately have to make democracy work in their country. We should stay there only long enough to give the Iraqi people the tools they need to secure the very democracy they voted for three times. After that, it’s up to them.

Source: Responses to Baltimore Sun Survey , Aug 7, 2006

Precipitous withdrawal from Iraq is dangerous

Q: Your disagreement with Bush on Iraq is about a failure to communicate?

A: To lay out for the people exactly what the strategy is. OK, you won the war, now how do we deal with the peace? Our military is not a police force. It is a military. It blows up things, it breaks things. The American people feel that we’ve not been very clear about the direction in which we’re going.

Q: You don’t favor immediate withdrawal?

A: I think a precipitous withdrawal is dangerous.

Source: Len Lazarick, The Examiner, “Power of the individual” , Apr 28, 2006

Other candidates on War & Peace: Michael Steele on other issues:
MD Gubernatorial:
Alec Ross
Larry Hogan
Martin O`Malley
Richard Madaleno
Robert Ehrlich
MD Senatorial:
Benjamin Cardin

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