Bush: Pulling Out of Iraq Not an Option
In his weekly radio address, President Bush signaled his resolve to continue the course in Iraq.
President Bush said Saturday that pulling out of Iraq now is not an option, rejecting calls by some lawmakers and many people asked in polls to start bringing U.S. troops home. “The terrorists and insurgents are trying to get us to retreat. Their goal is to get us to leave before Iraqis have had a chance to show the region what a government that is elected and truly accountable to its citizens can do for its people,” Bush said in his weekly radio address. “We will settle for nothing less than victory” over terrorists there, he said later.
Bush acknowledged discontent over his decisions but signaled no shift in policy or timing for the American presence in Iraq. “Some may disagree with my decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, but all of us can agree that the world’s terrorists have now made Iraq a central front in the war on terror,” he said. “This mission isn’t easy, and it will not be accomplished overnight.”
Amid continuing attacks and suicide bombings in Iraq, a few Republicans and Democrats Ã¢€” including one GOP lawmaker who voted for war in Iraq Ã¢€” introduced a resolution this week calling for Bush to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq by Oct. 1, 2006. There have been nearly 1,100 violent deaths in Iraq linked to the insurgency since a transitional government took office seven weeks ago.
The administration insists no timetable can be set for bringing U.S. forces home from Iraq until enough Iraqi forces have been sufficiently trained to take over the fight against the insurgency. Anything else, the administration argues, would only embolden the insurgency.
Bush also paid tribute to progress seen in Iraq this week. Iraq’s Shiite-led parliament and leaders of the disaffected Sunni Arab minority, which is believed to be the backbone of the insurgency, agreed on a process for drafting Iraq’s constitution. “Time and again, the Iraqi people have defied the skeptics who claim they are not up to the job of building a free society,” he said. “I am confident that Iraqis will continue to defy the skeptics as they build a new Iraq that represents the diversity of their nation and assumes greater responsibility for their own security. And when they do, our troops can come home with the honor they have earned.”
This is all well and good but every operation needs an exit strategy. Announcing a specific pull-out date would be unwise, since it would be a signal to our adversaries that they can simply hold out until then and then resume their efforts once American troops are gone; putting them back in would be nearly impossible politically. That said, there has to be an end state in mind. If “victory” is the standard–and it should be for any cause for which we’re willing to send American forces to die–it must come with a definition. What, precisely, constitutes “victory” in this case?
If “regime change” were the only goal, the definition of “victory” would be clear. Further, it was achieved well over a year and 1500 dead American soldiers ago. If “free and fair elections” is the goal, that, too, has been achieved. If a permanent constitution is the end state, that should come in August.
If the phrase “enough Iraqi forces have been sufficiently trained to take over the fight against the insurgency” defines “victory,” then I’m a bit confused. For one thing, the insurgency was an outgrowth of our invasion, not its cause. Second, it’s a rather amorphous goal. How many is “enough”? How much training is “sufficient”? Are American forces going to stay in Iraq until we’ve trained a force as capable as ours? That could take a while.