Tuesday, November 22, 2005

We're leaving Iraq -- Why Murtha enraged Bush/Cheney.

Fred Kaplan was among the cautiously semi-pro war rationalists who hoped Bush knew more than we did and didn't expect his people to botch so many things. I was in that club too.

Now Kaplan, a student of military history and strategy, points out that the furor about 'cut and run' is nonensical. Once we gave up on calling on the 'individual ready reserves' we effectively declared that we're done in Iraq. Short of a draft, we can't last a year at current deployment levels.

So everyone who's "in the know" already knows we have to leave soon. (This explains, by the way, why the Iraqi government is now calling for a US departure timetable.) Ready or not.

Problem is, Rove has a story for how to do this, so it looks like we're leaving as planned. Murtha's declaration blew the story up. It makes the inevitable departure look like it's somehow a retreat before popular pressure. So Cheney blows his stack.

The odd thing is, Kaplan points out that Murtha actually has a plan. Chances are, more pain to Bush, it's the plan Rove wants too ...
What Murtha Meant - We're leaving Iraq anyway. At least he's got a plan. By Fred Kaplan

.... The Army recently announced that it will no longer call up the Individual Ready Reserves for duty in Iraq. The IRRs are retired—in many cases, long-retired—soldiers, who, by contract, are obligated to re-enter the force if called back to arms. This announcement is as clear a sign as any that, whatever George W. Bush and Richard Cheney might say about the likes of Murtha, they too know the troops are coming out. For without the IRRs, the Army will be unable to sustain the present levels for much longer.

It almost doesn't matter whether withdrawing or redeploying the troops is a good idea; it's simply going to happen because there is no way for it not to happen (short of a major act of political will, such as reviving the draft or keeping troops on the battlefield beyond reasonable endurance). This is what Murtha meant when he told Russert, "We're going to be out of there, we're going to be out of there very quickly, and it's going to be close to the plan that I'm presenting right now." (There are political reasons for this near-inevitability, as well. When Murtha predicted we'd be mainly out of Iraq by 2006, Russert asked, "By Election Day 2006?" Murtha responded, "You—you have hit it on the head.")

So, the pertinent question becomes: What is the best way for redeploying? In other words, by what timetable (whether one is explicitly announced or not), after what political and military actions? How many U.S. troops should be left behind, and what should they be doing? Where should the others be redeployed, and under what circumstances will they move back into Iraq? Do we have any realistic strategic goals left in this war (one big problem in this whole fiasco is that the Bush administration never had any from the outset), and how do we accomplish them?

There's a very serious debate to be conducted in this country—not only about the future of our involvement with Iraq, but also about the use of force, the response to threats, the war on terror, the shape of the Middle East. John Murtha's proposal leaves open a lot of questions, but—seen for what it really says, not for how it's been portrayed—it's a start.
When the right wing shows pompous rage, they've been caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

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