Siegel: What do you do if you ask the Joint Chiefs of Staff what they need to achieve their mission in Iraq and they say, “We need a lot more troops”? Do you escalate the troop levels, or do you plan for a quick or a constant exit instead?
Kerry: You have to support our troops, and you have to do what’s necessary to try to make this mission successful, but they have not asked for that. I have to wait until I’m president and sit down with them and see where we are.
Siegel: But you yourself have pointed out that Gen. Shinseki, the former Army chief of staff, said there should be hundreds of thousands of troops in Iraq, and you say he was fired for saying that. What if you get now the “real story,” as you would say, the Army speaking candidly–
Kerry: I’ll have to make a decision when I get there as to what the probabilities are. I can’t hypothesize as to what I am going to find on Jan. 20–whether I’m going to find a Lebanon or whether I’m going to find a country that’s moving towards an election. That depends on what the president does now.
Kerry: I think the leadership has been arrogant and disastrous.
Siegel: But should either you or whoever is president next year consider the possibility of an increase in troops? Is that even a consideration, or should it be completely off the table?
Kerry: I do not intend to increase troops. I intend to get the process in place that I described, and I believe as a new president, with new credibility, with a fresh start, that I have the ability to be able to change the dynamics on the ground.
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Where’s that nuance when you need it?