Sunday, July 08, 2007

NYT Editorial Page - Start the retreat from Iraq

If Bush and Cheney were to resign tomorrow, and if they were to miraculously be replaced by a GOP leader with any brains (do any exist any more?), then it would be easier to argue that General Petraeus should be listened to, and perhaps given more time.

But they aren't going to resign. Even impeachment of the two of them wouldn't make any difference -- it would take too long.

Given the record of Bush and Cheney, we have to assume continued incompetence. Petraeus, no matter how talented, cannot overcome truly incompetent political leadership.

So I cannot come up with an argument to rebut the position of the New York Times this Sunday:

The Road Home - New York Times Editorial

July 8, 2007

It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit....

Like many Americans, we have put off that conclusion, waiting for a sign that President Bush was seriously trying to dig the United States out of the disaster he created by invading Iraq without sufficient cause, in the face of global opposition, and without a plan to stabilize the country afterward.

At first, we believed that after destroying Iraq’s government, army, police and economic structures, the United States was obliged to try to accomplish some of the goals Mr. Bush claimed to be pursuing, chiefly building a stable, unified Iraq. When it became clear that the president had neither the vision nor the means to do that, we argued against setting a withdrawal date while there was still some chance to mitigate the chaos that would most likely follow.

While Mr. Bush scorns deadlines, he kept promising breakthroughs — after elections, after a constitution, after sending in thousands more troops. But those milestones came and went without any progress toward a stable, democratic Iraq or a path for withdrawal. It is frighteningly clear that Mr. Bush’s plan is to stay the course as long as he is president and dump the mess on his successor. Whatever his cause was, it is lost.

The political leaders Washington has backed are incapable of putting national interests ahead of sectarian score settling. The security forces Washington has trained behave more like partisan militias. Additional military forces poured into the Baghdad region have failed to change anything.

Continuing to sacrifice the lives and limbs of American soldiers is wrong. The war is sapping the strength of the nation’s alliances and its military forces. It is a dangerous diversion from the life-and-death struggle against terrorists. It is an increasing burden on American taxpayers, and it is a betrayal of a world that needs the wise application of American power and principles.

A majority of Americans reached these conclusions months ago. Even in politically polarized Washington, positions on the war no longer divide entirely on party lines. When Congress returns this week, extricating American troops from the war should be at the top of its agenda.

That conversation must be candid and focused. Americans must be clear that Iraq, and the region around it, could be even bloodier and more chaotic after Americans leave. There could be reprisals against those who worked with American forces, further ethnic cleansing, even genocide. Potentially destabilizing refugee flows could hit Jordan and Syria. Iran and Turkey could be tempted to make power grabs. Perhaps most important, the invasion has created a new stronghold from which terrorist activity could proliferate.

The administration, the Democratic-controlled Congress, the United Nations and America’s allies must try to mitigate those outcomes — and they may fail. But Americans must be equally honest about the fact that keeping troops in Iraq will only make things worse. The nation needs a serious discussion, now, about how to accomplish a withdrawal and meet some of the big challenges that will arise.

The Mechanics of Withdrawal

The United States has about 160,000 troops and millions of tons of military gear inside Iraq. Getting that force out safely will be a formidable challenge. The main road south to Kuwait is notoriously vulnerable to roadside bomb attacks. Soldiers, weapons and vehicles will need to be deployed to secure bases while airlift and sealift operations are organized. Withdrawal routes will have to be guarded. The exit must be everything the invasion was not: based on reality and backed by adequate resources.

The United States should explore using Kurdish territory in the north of Iraq as a secure staging area. Being able to use bases and ports in Turkey would also make withdrawal faster and safer. Turkey has been an inconsistent ally in this war, but like other nations, it should realize that shouldering part of the burden of the aftermath is in its own interest.

Accomplishing all of this in less than six months is probably unrealistic. The political decision should be made, and the target date set, now...

The editorial writers then bravely attempt to suggest that the post-withdrawal chaos can be altered by American action. They are not persuasive. Bush. Cheney and all their voters are the fathers of a historic disaster.



Anonymous said...

I applaud this writing and wholeheartedly agree. My only question is: how/where/by what platform, venue, means -- can Americans have a discussion about ending this war (and ridding our country of the inept/corrupt administration)? There is a perceived (and perhaps real) powerlessness in the populace and in many individuals regarding the multi-faceted scariness of this administration.
CL, Knoxville, TN

JGF said...

I think we depend far more than we recognize on a few old men like Senator Patrick Leahy to get some control over a pathologic executive branch.

I also agree that the populace is disengaged, but I don't think that's because of true powerlessness, I think it's because Americans are increasingly in a future-shocked "stunned" state.