Wednesday, March 01, 2006

When Do The Troops Come Home?

In the waning months of 2005, there were calls from certain quarters that the American occupation of Iraq was no longer benefiting either country, and that a draw-down of forces was in order. From the conservative wing, the calls of cowardice belted forth, and the President himself said that the U.S. would not pull out of Iraq based on artificial time-tables set by "politicians in Washington."

At the outset of March 2006, there seems little hope now of the Administration withdrawing even a moderate amount of forces without putting on display the ultimate of hypocrisies. To disallow the option of removing forces from inside the country until the Iraqi forces can stand up on their own means that as the situation worsens or becomes more tangled, the President has no option but stay the course and leave American G.I.s in harms way.

Juan Cole's article in Salon is titled "Iraq's worst week - and Bush's". The following quote is perceptive:

Tactically, strategically and politically Bush now finds himself in the worst of all possible worlds. With Americans increasingly fed up with the Iraq debacle, he needs to start drawing down troops soon, but he can't do it while the country teeters on the brink of civil war. If civil war does break out, a U.S. withdrawal will look even more like cutting and running -- under these circumstances, not even Karl Rove will be able to figure out a way to get away with simply declaring victory and going home.

This is painting oneself into the smallest of corners. By using the idea of troop redeployment/ draw down / withdrawal as a hammer to pound the Democrats with as weak on Iraq, President Bush left himself no option for just this sort of eventual crumbling of the political structures in Iraq. If the entire idea of U.S. forces peacefully removing themselves from the situation is dependent upon preventing four well-armed insurgents bombing a mosque, than there is absolutely no control at the disposal of our leadership in America. It will be years before Iraq could begin to stabilize the political institutions that democracy needs in order to grow and thrive.

One might make the analogy that a father is trying to ask the unruly children to do something. It might go something like this, "We will not go to the dentist's office to have your cavities filled until you three calm down and behave like good boys and girls." If the father makes good on his supposed threat to the children, then the little ones have the control - so long as they don't behave, then they do not have to go to the dentist office and suffer through the procedure.

The lesson is, "be careful how you word your threat."

The window to change course came in 2005 when there was some hope and sense that the Constitution (however severely flawed) in Iraq could produce some governmental form that would hold responsibility, allowing the U.S. to define to the Iraqi people a set plan for turning control over to them. It may not have stopped the events that are currently set in motion today, but certainly it would have been agreeable to 80% of that population, as polls indicate currently. That window seems closed now, and any motion to take troops out now will definitely appear to be a panicked rush to the exits.

President Bush intimates that the troops will not come home until Iraq behaves like a good democracy should. This sounds very much like an artificial timetable set by a politician in Washington, D.C., does it not?

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