Dems surrender on rapid withdrawal
In the cacophony of competing plans about how to deal with Iraq, one reality now appears clear: despite the Democrats’ victory this month in an election viewed as a referendum on the war, the idea of a rapid American troop withdrawal is fast receding as a viable option.The NY Times and John Murtha have to be disappointed, but the Times reports that his "redeployment" idea was never seriously considered by the Iraq Study Group. Perhaps that is because Murtha's suggestion was just a dishonest cover for retreat and defeat and making our situation worse. It is also a recognition that we are fighting al Qaeda in Iraq and even Democrats are not willing to publicly retreat from that battle even if some like Pelosi want to remain willfully ignorant of al Qaeda's part of the war.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff are signaling that too rapid an American pullout would open the way to all-out civil war. The bipartisan Iraq Study Group has shied away from recommending explicit timelines in favor of a vaguely timed pullback. The report that the panel will deliver to President Bush next week would, at a minimum, leave a force of 70,000 or more troops in the country for a long time to come, to train the Iraqis and to insure against collapse of a desperately weak central government.
Even the Democrats, with an eye toward 2008, have dropped talk of a race for the exits, in favor of a brisk stroll. But that may be the only solace for Mr. Bush as he returns from a messy encounter with Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.
In the 23 days since the election, the debate in Washington and much of the country appears to have turned away from Mr. Bush’s oft-repeated insistence that the only viable option is to stay and fight smarter. The most talked-about alternatives now include renewed efforts to prepare the Iraqi forces while preparing to pull American combat brigades back to their bases, or back home, sometime next year. The message to Iraq’s warring parties would be clear: Washington’s commitment to making Iraq work is not open-ended.
In statements on Thursday, Democrats from former President Bill Clinton to Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, seemed to agree that hard timelines could invite trouble. Nonetheless, some areas of potential conflict with Mr. Bush seem clear.