Kerry: Withdraw By Year-End (Or Next Month)
You’ve got to be kidding me – does John Kerry REALLY think we could withdraw our troops a scant six weeks from now? That’s what he’s suggesting:
We are now in the third war in Iraq in as many years. The first was against Saddam Hussein and his supposed weapons of mass destruction. The second was against terrorists whom, the administration said, it was better to fight over there than here. Now we find our troops in the middle of an escalating civil war.
Half of the service members listed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall died after America’s leaders knew our strategy would not work. It was immoral then and it would be immoral now to engage in the same delusion. We want democracy in Iraq, but Iraqis must want it as much as we do. Our valiant soldiers can’t bring democracy to Iraq if Iraq’s leaders are unwilling themselves to make the compromises that democracy requires.
As our generals have said, the war cannot be won militarily. It must be won politically. No American soldier should be sacrificed because Iraqi politicians refuse to resolve their ethnic and political differences.
So far, Iraqi leaders have responded only to deadlines — a deadline to transfer authority to a provisional government, and a deadline to hold three elections.
Now we must set another deadline to extricate our troops and get Iraq up on its own two feet.
Iraqi politicians should be told that they have until May 15 to put together an effective unity government or we will immediately withdraw our military. If Iraqis aren’t willing to build a unity government in the five months since the election, they’re probably not willing to build one at all. The civil war will only get worse, and we will have no choice anyway but to leave.
If Iraq’s leaders succeed in putting together a government, then we must agree on another deadline: a schedule for withdrawing American combat forces by year’s end. Doing so will empower the new Iraqi leadership, put Iraqis in the position of running their own country and undermine support for the insurgency, which is fueled in large measure by the majority of Iraqis who want us to leave their country. Only troops essential to finishing the job of training Iraqi forces should remain.
Kerry’s absolutely right that we have to pressure the Iraqis to quit dithering and get on with it – but we come to the same problem we always do when we start talking deadlines: it sends a message to the jihadists and extremists that they need only gum up the works for another six weeks, and they win.
To reiterate – we can’t indefinitely afford to stand idly by while the Iraqis fritter away opportunities to move forward. There must be consequences to further delay. The deadline idea has some merit – but it can’t be as extreme as Kerry proposes, and the deadline must be tied to something other than troop withdrawal. Perhaps a withdrawal of support to those who are in a position to command loyalty from their followers and don’t use that power to make political progress – perhaps a simultaneous pledge of some sort of carrot to those who will…I don’t know the answers, obviously…but we can’t just arbitrarily say, right, okay, six weeks and we’re gone.
Kevin Drum recently challenged hawks such as myself to explain what we meant by whatever it takes. I’m not going to pretend that I’m an expert on the military situation – but I do feel that victory – or defeat – lies in the willingness to take on the militias and put the domestic force solely in the hands of a unity government. There’s two things there, then: form the government and empower it to disarm the militias. Carrots and sticks will come into play – perhaps promises of cabinet positions to Shiite leaders who will dissolve their troops into the Iraqi Army?…