Brad Plumer points us to a terrific article in the National Journal that discusses the politics and policy of withdrawal from Iraq. As Plumer and the article note, President Bush's myopic refusal to allow planning for withdrawal is another harmful act by the worst President in history. But a serious flaw in the article remains the assumption that, in terms of American interest, the situation in Iraq will worsen as a result of troop withdrawal. One of the usual "expert" suspects, Ken Pollack, who strongly supported the Iraq Debacle, now predictably warns about the dangers of withdrawal:
"I think the Baker-Hamilton proposal that we yank combat forces from Iraq but retain the missions of training Iraqi forces and hunting for terrorists was always unrealistic," said Kenneth Pollack, a Brookings Institution senior fellow and former Middle East analyst for the CIA. Given the likely size of the forward operating bases, rapid-reaction forces, and logistical footprint required to adequately conduct those missions, Pollack estimates that the United States would still need many tens of thousands of troops in Iraq. "Because I think things are going to get ugly very fast as the bad actors see a major reduction in U.S. forces, I also fear that the rapid-reaction forces we leave behind in Iraq will begin to look like a fire brigade at an arsonists' convention."
Coming from Debacle supporter Ken Pollock, who has been wrong on EVERYTHING about Iraq, this means next to nothing. But let's assume this is true, in what way would that be worse than if we keep US troops executing whatever the heck strategy Bush is supposed to be doing now or will be doing 12 months from now? Tell me Mr. Pollock, from the perspective of American interests, what could be worse than what we have now? If Ken Pollock had been in charge of Vietnam, we would still be there.
Of course there is a serious issue of a lack of planning for the inevitable withdraw from Iraq:
. . . The military could take a host of steps to help mitigate the risks of a U.S. troop drawdown, including staging a carefully phased and deliberate withdrawal; continuing U.S. support, and accelerated training and equipping, for the Iraqi forces that must fill the security vacuum; and keeping a residual, albeit smaller, U.S. military presence inside Iraq or around its periphery. But all of those options require the careful planning and hard decision-making that Sinnreich fears are being stymied by the deadlock in Washington. "The downside of this political theater in Washington, and the disingenuous refusal to admit that we've lost the political will to keep American troops heavily engaged in Iraq indefinitely," he said, "is that it keeps military planners from developing a timetable and a deliberate plan for withdrawal." . . . "God, I hope they're already doing the planning for a withdrawal, because only after working through the various scenarios and all of the possible branches and sequels can the military planners explain to their civilian masters what's needed to do this in an orderly way," said retired Maj. Gen. William Nash, who led NATO forces into Bosnia in the mid-1990s. "It's like I once told a superior who said not to worry about building refugee camps for the aftermath of Desert Storm: 'We can do this organized, or we can do it disorganized. Which way do you want it, sir?' The same goes for exiting Iraq. 'Which way do you want it, Mr. President?'"
The question is which Mr. or Madam President will that question be addressed to? For as it stands now, it won't be President Bush to whom the question is addressed. This article provides evidence of the myopia in Washington that George Bush is a man on whom you can "ratchet up the pressure"
Because the Democrats want out and Bush wants to stay, the congressional leaders' goal for ending the war is either to force the president to change his strategy through legislation, or to persuade him to change through political pressure. . . . But the math and the politics are simple: Democrats need Republicans, either to enact legislation or to exert pressure.
Just like every discussion of Iraq, this article and the persons quoted in it live in a fantasyland where legislation OR pressure will force Bush's hand on Iraq.
Bush is not running again. Bush does not care about "political pressure." My gawd, he won't even force Gonzales out. So "ratcheting up the pressure" on a madman is not a plan, it is a copout. And of course legislation will NEVER pass that ends the war. The way to end the war, as I have stated repreatedly, is to NOT fund the war. You know the drill, announce a date certain, say March 31, 2008, when funding for the Debacle ceases. Let me add a new wrinkle, demand plans for an orderly withdrawal from Iraq EVERY DAY for that 12 month period.
Some people like Levin and Schumer continue to cling to fantasy, or more likely, want to run on Iraq in 2008:
Sitting with Reid in his conference room recently, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the No. 3 party leader, explained the Democrats' strategy for picking up Republican support for a withdrawal timetable: Make them vote over and over on an unpopular war until their resolve crumbles. "We're going to keep at it, and at least it's my belief that they're going to have to break," Schumer said.
(Emphasis supplied.) No, they won't break. They CAN'T. Their base won't let kill them. More fantasy:
The Democrats plan to ratchet up the pressure steadily on Republicans through the fall -- a time when many lawmakers have indicated that they expect to see results from Bush's troop increase. The pressure, which started with the anti-surge resolutions in January and February and carried into the war supplemental debate in March and April, will continue as Congress takes up the fiscal 2008 Defense authorization and appropriations bills beginning in May and June.
Oh please. The Republicans won't say or do a thing in the Fall of 2007. They never have and they never will. Oner mopre Freidman Unit they'll say. And one more Friedman Unit gets you to March 2008. And then another, September 2008. And then it is election time and the Debacle will not end.
But here is a germ of an idea:
Some Democrats have even suggested that, after a Bush veto, they will pass a reduced supplemental with funds lasting only a few months, forcing a debate and vote on another supplemental later on.
That's a good idea IF coupled with an ANOUNCED DATE CERTAIN to end funding for the Debacle. Otherwise we end up at September 2008 again, and by then, the Democrats will co-own the war.
Yes, one more time, the answer is Reid-Feingold. And not passing it. Announcing that it is the Democratic position. The Democrats control Congress. If they say and MEAN no funding after March 31, 2008, a YEAR FROM NOW, then the Iraq Debacle will end. Otherwise, President Clinton or McCain or Rudy or Obama or whomever will be making speeches about how we can not precipitously withdraw from Iraq. You know why? Because they don't want to be the one who "lost Iraq." They won't want that hung around their neck in 2012.
The time is now to end the Debacle by adopting Reid-Feingold as the position of the Democratic Congress.