Return self-rule and self-protection to Iraq
President Bush has asked for "time and patience" in achieving the goals of a stable and democratic Iraq.
SAGGING public support for the war in Iraq has prompted President Bush to begin a series of speeches
before the Dec. 15 elections to stress the importance of what he calls a strategy for victory. He has continued to reject "arbitrary timetables" for withdrawing troops, but the milestones he cites that would allow withdrawals might be unachievable. A new policy is needed.
Rep. Neil Abercrombie introduced a resolution in June calling for initiation of a withdrawal of troops no later than next Oct. 1 but not stating when it should be completed. The Senate voted 79-19 in favor of a resolution declaring 2006 as a year of "significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty." The one thing that Iraq's political factions can agree upon is that the United States should have "a specified timetable" for withdrawal.
Listening to his generals, Bush apparently plans to begin troop reductions soon after the Iraq elections and through next year, making Abercrombie's resolution seem to be a modest proposal.
Rep. Ed Case supports the president's strategy, rejecting a specific withdrawal date as "a recipe for disaster." Many other Democrats share the administration's strategy to avoid chaos by shoring up the new Iraqi government and security forces to defend the new democracy.
Chaos certainly would ensue from an abrupt U.S. withdrawal, but that might be unavoidable. "You'll have chaos no matter if we pull out now or we pull out eight or 10 years from now," retired Army Lt. Gen. William E. Odom, director of the National Security Agency during the Reagan administration, told National Public Radio.
Odom and others suggest that violence in Iraq actually could recede because of U.S. withdrawal. While al-Qaida terrorists have been embraced by the Sunnis in Saddam Hussein's Baathist Party as "convenient partners in the insurgency," Odom predicts they would not likely continue cooperation in the absence of U.S. troops, their common enemy.
Stated reasons for invading Iraq in 2003 have been proved wrong -- Saddam's possession of weapons of mass destruction, attempt to obtain uranium to develop nuclear weapons and ties with al-Qaida. The pottery metaphor -- that the United States broke Iraq and therefore owns it -- is an insufficient reason to stay the course with a policy that is itself broken.
Despite Odom's analysis, the risk remains that the insurgency would turn into a massive civil war following an abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops. Rep. John P. Murtha, D-Pa., proposes to redeploy American troops as "a quick reaction force" outside Iraq's perimeter, where they could respond to calls for assistance to the Iraqi government and security forces.
Abercrombie says he supports Murtha's plan and would welcome its addition to his resolution. Such a redeployment would protect American soldiers from car bombings and other terrorist attacks while continuing to lend military support to the Iraqis when needed.