James Webb on War & Peace

Democratic Sr Senator


Strategic failings by U.S. allowed Russia into Syria

Let's start with why Russia is in Syria right now. There are three strategic failings that have allowed this to occur. The first was the invasion of Iraq, which destabilized ethnic elements in Iraq and empowered Iran. The second was the Arab Spring, which created huge vacuums in Libya and Syria that allowed terrorist movements to move in. The third was the recent deal allowing Iran to move forward and eventually acquire a nuclear weapon.
Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas , Oct 13, 2015

I supported invading Libya with Congressional war resolution

This is not about Benghazi per se. To me it is the inevitability of something like Benghazi occurring in the way that we intervened in Libya. We had no treaties at risk. We had no Americans at risk. There was no threat of attack or imminent attack. There is plenty of time for a president to come to the Congress and request authority to use military force in that situation.
Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas , Oct 13, 2015

Supports cutting back the army's ground commitments

Q: This week, the Obama administration announced they're cutting the Army back 40,000. That's outside of the sequestered cuts, your reaction to that?

WEBB: Well, we go through these cycles whenever we have extended ground commitments. We've done it three or four times in my adult life. I have a great deal of confidence, particularly in Joe Dunford, who's now going to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs. I don't think that the military leadership would be backing anything that they don't believe can work.

Q: So do you support it?

WEBB: No, I agree with the notion that ground forces are reduced when our extended ground commitments go down. But I don't know the numbers. I'd have to take a look and see where they are.

Source: Fox News Sunday 2015 coverage of 2016 presidential hopefuls , Jul 12, 2015

Solution to ISIS will have to come from Sunni leadership

Q: [regarding the Obama administration's plan to train Syrian fighters to go after ISIS in Syria] the administration allotted $500 million, hoping to train 5,400 Syrians. They are currently training 60. Is that acceptable?

WEBB: The long term solution to the ISIS problem is going to have to come from the Sunni leadership in the region. In the interim period, we need to define specifically what our national security interests are and how we can bring them about. I don't think you're going to get there with us training these opposition forces in that way. It didn't work very well a few years ago before IS showed up. But in terms of our national security interests, I think you're seeing some impact.

Source: Fox News Sunday 2015 coverage of 2016 presidential hopefuls , Jul 12, 2015

Iran deal requires Congressional approval

There are three things we need to look at with respect to the Iran deal.
  1. I don't believe that you can have a legally binding international commitment without the full consent of the Congress, not the oversight that they are offering in this bill, although I would say I think he has made quite an accomplishment by getting this bill through the committee in the form that it is.
  2. With respect to Iran itself, we need to look at this region. There are three major power centers in the region: Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. And since our invasion of Iraq, Iran has gained a much stronger foothold in terms of that balance of power. So, we don't want to be sending signals into this region that we are acquiescing to the situation where Iran might become more dominant.
  3. We don't know the particulars. So, it's vitally important that Congress come forward and examine this agreement in detail and get a vote.
Source: CNN SOTU 2015 interview series: 2016 presidential hopefuls , Apr 19, 2015

Iraq invasion empowered Iran & led to sectarian violence

Q: What about the Middle East?

WEBB: If you look at what's going on right now, there are two data points I think that are critical. The first was the decision by the Bush administration to invade and occupy Iraq. Which empowered Iran and unleashed all the sectarian violence. And then it was what I thought was a strategic, the inadvisable strategy of the Arab Spring. And what has happened in Libya as well as Syria as a result.

Source: Meet the Press 2014 interviews of 2016 presidential hopefuls , Oct 5, 2014

Anti-ISIS alliances are fluid; we've trained some ISIS

Q: What about Syria and ISIS?

WEBB: Now if you take a look at Syria, and these other parts of Iraq, we now have a situation where we're asking these freedom fighters, or whatever you want to call them, who were going after Assad, to help us go after ISIS. The elements that are fighting there are very fluid in terms of the people who declare their alliances. I would be willing to bet that we had people at the top of ISIS who actually have been trained by Americans at some point.

Source: Meet the Press 2014 interviews of 2016 presidential hopefuls , Oct 5, 2014

Bush took us into this war recklessly; we predicted chaos

The president took us into this war recklessly. He disregarded warnings from the national security adviser during the first Gulf War, the chief of staff of the army, two former commanding generals of the Central Command, whose jurisdiction includes Iraq, the director of operations on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many, many others with great integrity and long experience in national security affairs. We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable--and predicted--disarray that has followed.
Source: Democratic response to 2007 State of the Union address , Jan 23, 2007

Bush can join us in ending war, or we will show him the way

On the vital issue of our national security, it falls upon those of us in elected office to take action. Eisenhower asked about the Korean War, “When comes the end?”. As soon as he became President, he brought the war to an end.

Eisenhower took the right kind of action, for the benefit of the American people & for the health of our relations around the world. We call on this president to take similar action, in both areas. If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way

Source: Democratic response to 2007 State of the Union address , Jan 23, 2007

US has patiently endured a mismanaged war for 4 years

This country has patiently endured a mismanaged war for nearly four years. Many, including myself, warned even before the war began that it was unnecessary, that it would take our energy and attention away from the larger war against terrorism, and that invading and occupying Iraq would leave us strategically vulnerable in the most violent and turbulent corner of the world.

Like so many other Americans, we have served, not for political reasons, but because we love our country. On the political issues--those matters of war and peace, and in some cases of life and death--we trusted the judgment of our national leaders. We owed them our loyalty, as Americans, and we gave it. But they owed us--sound judgment, clear thinking, concern for our welfare, a guarantee that the threat to our country was equal to the price we might be called upon to pay in defending it.

Source: Democratic response to 2007 State of the Union address , Jan 23, 2007

Shift toward diplomacy & leave Iraq in short order

The war’s costs to our nation have been staggering, financially. The damage to our reputation around the world. The lost opportunities to defeat the forces of international terrorism. And especially the precious blood of our citizens who have stepped forward to serve.

The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military. We need a new direction. Not one step back from the war against international terrorism. Not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos. But an immediate shift toward strong regionally-based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq’s cities, and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq.

Source: Democratic response to 2007 State of the Union address , Jan 23, 2007

No patriotism question when Eisenhower questioned Korean War

In debating the current occupation of Iraq we should be reminded of another era, in which a recently retired General took strong issue with a war that had gone on too long and resolved to do something about it. Few Americans called Dwight Eisenhower unpatriotic in the summer of 1952 when he criticized the Truman Administration for its conduct of the Korean War. It’s worthwhile in this era where Generals who speak out are accused of betrayal, to quote the five-star General who became our president. “Where do we go from here?” he asked, and “When comes the end? The resolution will be: To forego the diversions of politics and to concentrate on the job of ending the Korean war--until that job is honorably done.” And just as General Eisenhower made that pledge 54 years ago, it is relevant today. We must forego the slash and burn political tactics that have marked the last six years, and reach for a true solution to the war in Iraq and the chaos in the Middle East.
Source: New York Times Election Profiles , Oct 8, 2006

We’re burning out our troops in Iraq

Q: Would you be in favor of putting more American troops in Iraq?

ALLEN: We’re going to need to do what it takes to succeed.

Q: Including more troops?

ALLEN: That is actually happening right now. If you look at the troop levels in Iraq, they are higher than they were several months ago. Moreover, they have been concentrated in the Baghdad area, so the troops are going to where they’re needed. But every single week you see more and more Iraqis and their military taking control, with the US in a supportive role.

Q: Mr. Webb, should we increase American troop levels in Iraq?

WEBB: We don’t have the troops. We’ve got people now in the Army pulling their third and sometimes their fourth tours into Iraq. We’re burning out our people. It’s a double strategic mouse trap--first, it was going to burn out our conventional forces, and second, that we have gotten so engaged in fighting the Sunni insurgency that we have allowed the Shia to get more power inside Iraq.

Source: VA Senate debate on Meet the Press with Tim Russert, p. 5 , Sep 17, 2006

Terrorists are in Iraq because we invaded, not vice-versa

With respect to going into Iraq, we did have other options. This was not a war of necessity at the time. We had inspectors on the ground, as opposed to the situation in 1998 when there were no inspectors on the ground. And we had plenty of strong military advice saying the same thing. Last week Vice President Cheney was on your show, and he even declined to comment about the Senate Intelligence Committee report that showed how the intelligence [on Iraq] had been cooked. A lot of people on the outside knew that. There was no urgency to go into this war at the time that we went into it. And if we had the right people in the Senate, there would have been more questions asked and a better policy in place in order to defeat international terrorism. That is the focus of our country. We didn’t go into Iraq because of terrorism, we have terrorists in Iraq because we went in there.
Source: VA Senate debate on Meet the Press with Tim Russert, p. 3 , Sep 17, 2006

Saddam and al Qaeda were natural enemies

We need to make a couple of clarifications here. Saddam Hussein was not aligned with al-Qaeda, they were natural enemies. And this came out in the Senate Intelligence Committee report of last week

Let’s be clear: We made a strategic error in going into Iraq, but we have a responsibility to reduce our presence in Iraq in a way that will stabilize the region. We need a commitment from this administration that we, the US, do not want to be in Iraq as a permanent presence and a long-term presence. But secondly, that we have to get these other countries involved, the other countries tangential to Iraq, the countries that have cultural and historical interests in Iraq, involved in an overt way to move toward a diplomatic process.

I know what it’s like to be on the ground. I know what it’s like to fight a war like this. And there are limits to what the military can do. Eventually, this is going to have to move into a diplomatic environment. And there are ways that we can move this forward.

Source: VA Senate debate on Meet the Press with Tim Russert, p. 6 , Sep 17, 2006

Iran cooperated with US in Afghanistan, until “Axis of Evil”

If you look at what we did after the invasion of Afghanistan, we actually brought the countries around Afghanistan to the table-including Iran, by the way. Iran was cooperating at that time, before President Bush made his “axis of evil” speech and they stopped cooperating. Sooner or later, we’re going to leave Iraq. And when we leave, the countries that are tangential to Iraq are going to be players. We should overtly push that now.
Source: VA Senate debate on Meet the Press with Tim Russert, p. 6 , Sep 17, 2006

$300B better spent on Iraqi containment

Q: Could the $300 billion we spent on Iraq have been better spent?

WEBB: Yes. We could have contained Iraq. If you want to take out Saddam Hussein, there are ways to take out Saddam Hussein. We did not need to go into a country, decapitate the government and inherit the responsibility of rebuilding it. And eventually that is going to fall to the other countries in the region. It’s just going to.

Source: VA Senate debate on Meet the Press with Tim Russert, p. 8 , Sep 17, 2006

Convene international conference to involve others in Iraq

Q: Senator Allen said your views are not much different in terms of the future of Iraq.

WEBB: We need now a clear statement from this administration that we have no desire for a long-term presence in Iraq. And we need to convene an international conference with the countries that have cultural and historic ties to Iraq in order to have them assume some responsibility for the future of Iraq.

ALLEN: I have no interest for us to be permanently in Iraq.

Source: VA Senate debate on Meet the Press with Tim Russert, p. 9 , Sep 17, 2006

No Mideast peace as long as US forces are in Iraq

Q: What about permanent bases in Iraq?

ALLEN: I have no interest for us to be permanently in Iraq.

Q: Would you vote against them?

ALLEN: I have voted against permanent US bases.

WEBB: Would you vote against these four large bases in the remote areas of Iraq?

ALLEN: The four bases are a consolidation for force protection.

WEBB: How long are we going to be in these bases?

ALLEN: No longer than necessary.

WEBB: If our conventional mission is done in the cities of Iraq, we should be getting our conventional forces out of Iraq. Not into the remote areas of Iraq.

ALLEN: It’s important for force protection. It’s important to have the military options, whether it’s ground forces or air forces.

WEBB: As long as the US conventional forces are in Iraq there will not be peace in the Middle East.

ALLEN: No, that’s not the point. The Iraqis will ultimately take over these bases.

WEBB: Iraqis can build their own bases. You’re not protecting forces if you’re sitting in one area.

Source: VA Senate debate on Meet the Press with Tim Russert, p. 9 , Sep 17, 2006

It was a mistake to go to Iraq; said so before Senate vote

Q: Would you have voted in October of 2002 to authorize the Iraq war?

WEBB: I clearly would not have. If you read the “Washington Post” piece I wrote in September 2002, I was saying don’t do it.

Q: Mr. Miller, would you have voted to authorize?

MILLER: I didn’t have access to all the intelligence that Senator Allen and other senators had. But looking back, no.

Q: Was it a mistake to go to Iraq?

MILLER: Yes, sir.

WEBB: It was and I said so at the time.

Q: Is there any difference between your position and his?

WEBB: I think I arrived at it far earlier than Harris Miller did. I think this is recent for him.

Q: At the time that we went were you cheering that decision or opposing it instinctively?

MILLER: I wasn’t opposing it instinctively because I believed General Colin Powell when he said that there was a plan to deal with the post-war effort. In fact, that was a lie. We were misled by the president. It became clear within three or four months it was a huge mistake.

Source: Virginia 2006 Democratic Senate Primary debate , Jun 9, 2006

America is fighting the wrong war in Iraq

America is fighting the wrong war in Iraq. But while we entered this war recklessly, we must leave carefully. This can only be achieved when the administration clearly states that the United States has no long-term plan to occupy Iraq. The Middle East nations in the region must then be engaged, along with our global allies, in finding the solution for the future of Iraq.
Source: 2006 Senate campaign website, webbforsenate.com, “Issues” , May 2, 2006

Honors troops but questions Bush’s strategic errors

My son and others are serving their country. I honor their service and sense of duty, even though I warned against the war in Iraq and continue to believe it was a strategic error. And to me there is no contradiction in these two circumstances.

My objection to this war is aimed not at my country, but at the Administration that has chosen to wage it--an administration that has muddied the truth, made mistake after mistake, & refused to accept responsibility. It is our duty to question such policies

Source: Campaign announcement speech , Apr 28, 2006

A cogent critic of the war in Iraq

Right now, there are no Dem candidates running against Republican George Allen in this year’s senate race. Even if Mark Warner were to run, it would be a seriously uphill battle?which explains our recruitment difficulties. But there’s one possible name in the mix who I’m holding out hope for: former Secretary of the Navy James Webb. And since you’re nobody until somebody tries to draft you, the obligatory Draft James Webb website has sprung into existence.

As you may know, Webb was Navy Secretary under Reagan. Switching from working in a Republican administration to running as a Democratic senate candidate is a compelling storyline. It’s something the media might latch on to. As much as we hate him, Zell Miller got a lot of play in 2004 because he switched sides. I also think Webb’s background would play well in Virginia, with its numerous military bases (plus the Pentagon)-he’s a decorated veteran and the first Annapolis grad to become SecNavy. He’s also been a cogent critic of the war in Iraq

Source: Draft Webb article, www.swingstateproject.com , Jan 3, 2006

Opposed the War on Iraq on pragmatic grounds

Has spoken out against the Iraq war at least since September 2002, when he asked the question, “Do we really want to occupy Iraq for the next 30 years?” There are millions of other Americans who have opposed the War on Iraq on pragmatic, non-ideological grounds, Secretary Webb is among their most respected voices.
Source: Draft Webb website, www.draftjameswebb.com , Jan 3, 2006

Voted NO on redeploying non-essential US troops out of Iraq in 9 months.

Vote to transition the missions of US Forces in Iraq to a more limited set of missions as specified by the President on September 13, 2007: S.AMDT.3875 amends S.AMDT.3874 and underlying bill H.R.2764:

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. LEVIN: "The amendment requires redeployment be completed within 9 months. At that point, funding for the war would be ended, with four narrow exceptions:"

  1. Security for US Government personnel and infrastructure
  2. Training Iraqi security forces
  3. Equipment to US service men and women to ensure their safety
Targeted operations against members of al-Qaida.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. McCAIN: "This year, after nearly 4 years of mismanaged war, our military has made significant gains under the so-called surge. Overall violence in Iraq has fallen to its lowest level since [2003]. Improvised explosive device blasts now occur at a rate lower than at any point since September 2004.

"Al-Qaida's leadership knows which side is winning in Iraq. It may not be known in some parts of America and in this body, but al-Qaida knows. We are succeeding under the new strategy.

"Given these realities, some proponents of precipitous withdrawal from Iraq have shifted their focus. While conceding, finally, that there have been dramatic security gains, they have begun seizing on the lackluster performance of the Iraqi Government to insist that we should abandon the successful strategy and withdraw U.S. forces. This would be a terrible mistake."

Reference: Safe Redeployment Of US Troops From Iraq Amendment; Bill S.AMDT.3875 to H.R.2764 ; vote number 2007-437 on Dec 18, 2007

Voted NO on designating Iran's Revolutionary Guards as terrorists.

Vote on a "Sense of the Senate" amendment, S.Amdt. 3017, to H.R. 1585 (National Defense Authorization Act), that finds:

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. LIEBERMAN: Some of our colleagues thought the Sense of the Senate may have opened the door to some kind of military action against Iran [so we removed some text]. That is not our intention. In fact, our intention is to increase the economic pressure on Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps so that we will never have to consider the use of the military to stop them from what they are doing to kill our soldiers.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. BIDEN. I will oppose the Kyl-Lieberman amendment for one simple reason: this administration cannot be trusted. I am very concerned about the evidence that suggests that Iran is engaged in destabilizing activities inside Iraq. Arguably, if we had a different President who abided by the meaning and intent of laws we pass, I might support this amendment. I fear, however, that this President might use the designation of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity as a pretext to use force against Iran as he sees fit. [The same was done with the Senate resolution on Iraq in 2002]. Given this President's actions and misuse of authority, I cannot support the amendment.

Reference: Sense of the Senate on Iran; Bill S.Amdt. 3017 to H.R. 1585 ; vote number 2007-349 on Sep 26, 2007

Voted YES on redeploying US troops out of Iraq by March 2008.

Begins the phased redeployment of US forces from Iraq within 120 days of enactment of this joint resolution with the goal of redeploying by March 31, 2008, all US combat forces from Iraq, except for a limited number essential for protecting US and coalition personnel and infrastructure, training and equipping Iraqi forces, and conducting targeted counter-terrorism operations. Such redeployment shall be implemented as part of a diplomatic, political, and economic strategy that includes sustained engagement with Iraq's neighbors and the international community in order to bring stability to Iraq.

Proponents recommend voting YES because:

Our troops are caught in the midst of a civil war. The administration has begun to escalate this war with 21,000 more troops. This idea is not a new one. During this war, four previous surges have all failed. It is time for a different direction. It is time for a drawdown of our troops.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

This resolution calls for imposing an artificial timeline to withdraw our troops from Iraq, regardless of the conditions on the ground or the consequences of defeat; a defeat that will surely be added to what is unfortunately a growing list of American humiliations. This legislation would hobble American commanders in the field and substantially endanger America's strategic objective of a unified federal democratic Iraq that can govern, defend, and sustain itself and be an ally in the war against Islamic fascism. The unintended consequence of this resolution is to bring to reality Osama bin Laden's vision for Iraq; that after 4 years of fighting in Iraq the US Congress loses its will to fight. If we leave Iraq before the job is done, as surely as night follows day, the terrorists will follow us home. Osama bin Laden has openly said: America does not have the stomach to stay in the fight. He is a fanatic. He is an Islamic fascist. He is determined to destroy us and our way of life.

Reference: US Policy in Iraq Resolution; Bill S.J.Res.9 ; vote number 2007-075 on Mar 15, 2007

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