New York Times headline: “Democrats Push for Troop Cuts Within Months.” Reuters: “U.S. Democrats say will push for Iraq withdrawal”
So, were the Republicans right all along? Do leading Democratics really want to “cut and run” after all?
Would that it were so.
The most prominent voice cited by the Times is that of Michigan Senator Carl Levin, incoming chairman of the Armed Services Committee. What is Levin actually saying?
“We need to begin a phased redeployment of forces from Iraq in four to six months,” Mr. Levin said in an appearance on the ABC News program “This Week.” In a telephone interview later, Mr. Levin added, “The point of this is to signal to the Iraqis that the open-ended commitment is over and that they are going to have to solve their own problems.”
Levin’s approach is fundamentally tactical. There is no retreat here. Levin proposes to threaten the Iraqi government with US military withdrawal in order to maximize US political leverage in Iraq.
Set aside, for the moment, the bizarre spectacle of an occupying army threatening to withdrawal from a country in which the vast majority of the population allegedly favors a US withdrawal.
As the New York Times article makes clear, Levin is bluffing:
In the interview after his television appearance today, Mr. Levin said that any resolution about troop reductions in the next session of Congress would not include detailed benchmarks mandating how many troops should be withdrawn by specific dates.
And, now that the mid-term election campaigning is over, the White House is perfectly willing to acknowledge that Levin isn’t really saying anything they do not support.
The White House signaled a willingness to listen to the Democrats’ proposals, with Joshua B. Bolten, the chief of staff, saying in two television appearances that the president was open to “fresh ideas” and a “fresh look.”…
“You know, we’re willing to talk about anything,” he said on “This Week.” “I don’t think we’re going to be receptive to the notion there’s a fixed timetable at which we automatically pull out, because that could be a true disaster for the Iraqi people. But what we’ve always been prepared to do, and remain prepared to do, is indeed what Senators Levin and Biden were talking about, is put pressure on the Iraqi government to take over themselves.”
What does Levin aim to accomplish with all this “pressure” on the Iraqi government?
The position was most clearly articulated in Levin’s June 19, 2006 “sense of the Congress” amendment regarding Iraq policy, the full text of which is available here.
Sectarian violence has surpassed the insurgency and terrorism as the main security threat in Iraq, increasing the prospects of a broader civil war which could draw in Iraq’s neighbors…
Iraq’s security forces are heavily infiltrated by sectarian militia…
The current open-ended commitment of United States forces in Iraq is… a deterrent to the Iraqis making the political compromises and personnel and resource commitments that are needed for the stability and security of Iraq…
[T]he Iraq Government should promptly and decisively disarm the militias and remove those members of the Iraqi security forces whose loyalty to the Iraq Government is in doubt…
As John McCain understands, there is a simpler way of saying all that.
Appearing on the NBC News program “Meet the Press,” Mr. McCain said that “the present situation is unacceptable,”…
Emphasizing the importance of breaking the back of the Mahdi Army, the militia allied with the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, Mr. McCain said the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, “has to understand that we need to put down Sadr, and we need to take care of the Mahdi Army, and we need to stop the sectarian violence that is on the increase in a non-acceptable level.”
Or, as McCain said last week: “al-Sadr has to be taken out.”
Thank heavens. The “moderates” have taken control in Washington.
Here is the blood thirsty war cry of Vice President Cheney from a pre-election, October 30, 2006 interview:
Q: …And I also want to ask you, in that same vain of American toughness in winning the war, this guy al Sadr is still out there. There’s been a warrant for his arrest for three years. His death squads, his militias, they’re killing rival Shias, they’re killing Sunnis. They tried to plot to take over the interior department in Baghdad. Why is he still on the loose? A lot of people say, why don’t we rub out al Sadr? Why don’t we take him into custody? That would be a sign of winning.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, we’ve moved — obviously, we took the chief bad guy in Saddam Hussein, and he’s on trial now…
Q But al Sadr stays out there —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well —
Q — capture.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: He is — obviously speaks for a significant number of Iraqis, has a strong following.
Is it me, or do the “moderates” seem a little trigger happy now that the election has passed?
Maybe that is because they aren’t really “moderate” about Iraq. They are simply bi-partisan in their radical approach to the war in Iraq.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for the Right Arabists to bring the troops home. If they are going to try to put the Shiite “genie” back in the bottle with an anti-Shiite coup, they are going to have a lot of killing to do.
Here is a recent Brent Scowcroft interview from Turkey:
Question: You were opposed to the invasion of Iraq. Do you feel vindicated now that we see chaos there? How do you see the situation as it is today and what do you see for the future?
Scowcroft: No, I don’t have any feeling of satisfaction. Regardless of how we got there, we are there, and it is a difficult situation. Far more difficult than the administration expected. And it will be increasingly hard to stay in because it has become an unusually important issue in domestic U.S. politics. But I think we have to stay and try and manage the situation to get some kind of a resolution where we can have an Iraq that is relatively stable.
The Right Arabists will not withdraw from Iraq.
And, just for the record, they will not embrace Biden’s partition plan (no surprise here):
Question: The notion of dividing Iraq along Ottoman lines is being voiced by some in Washington. Do you think this idea will capture the imagination of the U.S. people who clearly want to see a way out of what is evidently a growing mess?…
Scowcroft: There are serious people that have advocated this. For me it is inconceivable.
It is depressing to acknowledge, but one possible scenario is that Rumsfeld was dumped to make way for someone willing to forget about “military transformation” and “force protection” and do the dirty deed that Rumsfeld refused to do: send more troops.
A pity that this has the look of a concession to “critics” who demanded nothing less.
The option of raising troop levels in Iraq is certainly getting talked about. See the NY article here.
Note that both the military and the Iraq Study Group are considering the option: “A Pentagon strategy review, ordered by Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is backing the idea, as is a separate panel studying Iraq options, led by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, the senior official said.”