TRANSCRIPT: The Democratic Debate

But one thing I want to say, as I'm listening -- I know you're trying to create a fight up here, I understand that, but any...

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to find out what you all think.

EDWARDS: ... any -- any Democratic president will end this war. That's what we know.

And secondly...

(APPLAUSE)

... the differences between us, whether it's Senator Clinton or Senator Dodd or Governor Richardson or Senator Biden, all of whom I have enormous respect for, the differences between all of us are very small compared to the differences between us and the Republican candidates, who the best I can tell are George Bush on steroids.

(LAUGHTER)

They're going to keep this war going as long as it can possibly go. That's exactly what's going to happen.

RICHARDSON: With all due respect, I'd like to ask Senator Clinton, Senator Biden, you're saying you're going to leave residual troops behind. I don't know, is it 25,000, 50,000, 75,000?

RICHARDSON: You're also saying, I think, Senator Clinton, that all combat troops should come out. Now, for the non-combat troops, how are they going to protect themselves?

My point is that by taking them all out, all our troops are no longer targets. And then Al Qaida and the insurgents, both that see American troops as their prey, will now turn on each other.

And so, what we are now to do is force this negotiation, this reconciliation process, which I believe Joe Biden's plan has potential, a possible partition. Or division of oil revenues. An all-Muslim peacekeeping force. Get Turkey, get Jordan, get Egypt. Talk to Iran and Syria. Bring them in.

What is needed here is stability, and I think that all of these countries can be invested in a plan for stability. Nobody wants a civil war or a sectarian conflict -- and by the way, it's already happening. And what we need is stability.

RICHARDSON: But you can't have stability without any American troop there. That's my point. So I'd like my question answered. What is the purpose of the residual force?

BIDEN: I'll answer that, if I may.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And I also want Senator Clinton and Senator Obama on that question. You go first.

BIDEN: Look, the fundamental disagreement I have with my colleagues up here is that they seem to cling to the fundamental strategic mistake that everyone on both sides plays to, and that is that there is any possibility in the lifetime of anyone here of having the Iraqis get together, have a unity government in Baghdad that pulls the country together.

That will not happen, George. It will not happen in the lifetime of anyone here.

Secondly, the point is that you have to separate the parties to give them breathing room. You have to get them out of each other's face, just like we did in the Balkans, the same exact thing.

Third piece I'd make to you is that there's much more at stake here. This war must end, but there's much more at stake as to how it ends.

BIDEN: If it ends with this country splintering, we will have, for a generation, our grandchildren, engaged in a regional war that will be consequential far beyond -- far beyond Iraq.

America's security interests are at stake. You will see Turkey move in and take on the Kurds. You will see the Iranians move in and pick sides among the Shias. You will see Saudi Arabia and Syria continue to fund the most radical extreme elements of the jihadis.

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