Bush should seek Iraq compromise
President Bush has vowed to veto a military spending bill that includes a timetable for withdrawal of most U.S. troops from Iraq.
PRESIDENT Bush is casting the newly Democratic Congress as a proponent of "withdrawal and defeat" in Iraq, while most Americans recognize that anything resembling achievement of U.S. goals in the conflict has become unrealistic. The president remains intransigent when he should be negotiating with congressional leaders for a responsible and gradual deployment of U.S. troops from Iraq without creating disaster even greater than the ongoing religion-based civil war.
Bush is charging ahead with what he describes as a "surge" of 30,000 troops to Iraq, which detractors describe as an escalation of the war. Time will tell whether the strategy will succeed, and bills approved by the U.S. House and Senate setting benchmarks for the Iraqi government to assume responsibility would allow such time.
Both bills, to be melded in joint conference, call for most American troops to be withdrawn from Iraq sometime next year. U.S. forces would remain in Iraq to protect American citizens and infrastructure, conduct counter-terrorism operations and train and equip Iraqi forces. That would not be a precipitous withdrawal. A similar approach was recommended by the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group.
The benchmarks are part of a military spending bill that Bush has threatened to veto if they are not removed. U.S. troops would not be endangered anytime soon by such a funding delay. Most of the expenditures would be for replacement troops that are not scheduled to be deployed until next fall.
If the stalemate remains, Congress might choose to approve monthly spending extensions that will keep troops equipped. In the meantime, public opposition to the presence of U.S. combat troops in Iraq will grow as the 2008 elections near, unless, of course, the "surge" works. Bush will need such a miracle to maintain Republican support on Capitol Hill.
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