Published March 19, 2006
| Associated Press
CONCORD, N.H. – Two potential presidential candidates agreed Saturday that there's no easy way out of Iraq, but they took widely different approaches to the challenge.
Islamic Jihadists want to destroy American's economy and its superpower status, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney told a group of Republican women in Concord.
"Fortunately we have a president who recognizes how severe this threat is and realizes we have to wage war against such tactics and such a vision," he said.
Now is not the time to cut and run in Iraq, Romney added.
"To do so would leave the Iraqis in a setting where extreme violence could ensue and it would be irresponsible for us to change a regime, cause the collapse of their system of security, and walk away," he said.
Another possible candidate, retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark, said at New England College that preventing civil war in Iraq will require America's political influence, not just its military force.
Clark, who sought the Democratic nomination for president in 2004, said the United States should be pushing Shiite Muslims to include Sunnis in the government and to ensure that the country's oil wealth is shared by all.
"It is a political problem primarily, not a military one," he said on the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion
Clark opposed setting a pullout date for American military forces.
"If we pull out before there's stability in Iraq, before there's been peacemaking between the Sunnis and the Shi'as, I do think the likelihood is we'll have deeper conflict and it will become regional in scale."
Clark noted that the tensions between the two major Muslim sects extend beyond Iraq.
"That's a 1,300-year civil war within Islam that's being fought out in Iraq right now," he said.
Neither he nor Romney said anything about their own plans for 2008, saying they were campaigning for other candidates.
A third possible contender, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, was starting a three-day tour of New Hampshire.