Democrats Push to Start Iraq Withdrawal

The Senate’s incoming Democratic leadership is wasting no time in pushing for getting U.S. forces out of Iraq.

Democratic leaders in the Senate vowed on Sunday to use their new Congressional majority to press for troop reductions in Iraq within a matter of months, stepping up pressure on the administration just as President Bush is to be interviewed by a bipartisan panel examining future strategy for the war.

The Democrats — the incoming majority leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada; the incoming Armed Services Committee chairman, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan; and the incoming Foreign Relations Committee chairman, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware — said a phased redeployment of troops would be their top priority when the new Congress convenes in January, even before an investigation of the conduct of the war. “We need to begin a phased redeployment of forces from Iraq in four to six months,” Mr. Levin said in an appearance on the ABC News program “This Week.” In a telephone interview later, Mr. Levin added, “The point of this is to signal to the Iraqis that the open-ended commitment is over and that they are going to have to solve their own problems.”

The White House signaled a willingness to listen to the Democrats’ proposals, with Joshua B. Bolten, the chief of staff, saying in two television appearances that the president was open to “fresh ideas” and a “fresh look.” But Mr. Bolten said he could not envision the White House signing on to a plan setting a timetable for the withdrawal of troops. “You know, we’re willing to talk about anything,” he said on “This Week.” “I don’t think we’re going to be receptive to the notion there’s a fixed timetable at which we automatically pull out, because that could be a true disaster for the Iraqi people. But what we’ve always been prepared to do, and remain prepared to do, is indeed what Senators Levin and Biden were talking about, is put pressure on the Iraqi government to take over themselves.”

By themselves, the Senate Democrats are unlikely to be able to force such a move. Still, the White House and Congressional Republicans are eager to find a way to put the controversy over Iraq behind them and may well be amenable to some sort of compromise solution.

Whether this is surrender by another name or an actual strategic move aimed at salvaging something like victory will depend on how this “phased withdrawal” is implemented. If it’s simply cut-and-run, it’s the former. If, on the other hand, we remove the lion’s share of combat troops and leave behind upper-echelon logistics personnel along with strategically selected civil affairs and other special operations forces for training and reconstruction missions, it could well be the latter.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Intelligence Agency and the director of national intelligence, and will then interview Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain by videoconference. On Tuesday, the group plans to meet with Democratic foreign policy leaders. [IMG] Blogged At: Daily Kos, Outside The Beltway, Talk Left How the West is Being Won NewsweekAmerican politics has always been defined (or imprisoned) by Mason and Dixon, by regional rifts engendered by slavery, the Civil War and the Bible Belt. But now the relevant names are Lewis and Clark. The

  2. Dean Esmay says:

    I suppose it all depends on just how drastic and fast they try to make the changes–and how hard the administration fights against anything drastic.

    It’s not unreasonable for the US to say “look we’ve given you this many years of direct support, this many billions of dollars, but we have limits.”

    Still, I think any plan which does not involve some US presence in the country for the next several years is probably disastrously bad.

  3. mario says:

    This reminds me of the days before we pulled out of Vietnam. The same old arguments prevail: “we can’t just bail out”, “we must win the war against the commies”, or “we have a moral obligation to the southeast and the troops that have died”, etc etc etc.

    We left and “the worst” never happened. In fact, you can vacation in Vietnam these days. So far, no one has shown any proof that if we left Iraq, “all hell would break loose”…it’s only pure guessing by those who support the war and are looking for any way to hang on.

    It’s time to come home, put American pride behind us, and let the Middle East be the Middle east. I have to praise the Democrats for willing to take the first initiative to end the war, and the sooner we leave, the less American lives we will lose.

  4. Anderson says:

    If, on the other hand, we remove the lion’s share of combat troops and leave behind upper-echelon logistics personnel along with strategically selected civil affairs and other special operations forces for training and reconstruction missions

    … then, after Iraq goes to hell, the Repubs will *still* campaign on “the Democrats made us cut & run.”

    I think the Dems are making a mistake, a huge one, by already talking in these terms. What they should be doing is saying, “all right, we’ve had your so-called plans … now, what is the REAL PLAN for Iraq?” and put the ball back in the White House’s court, with the new incentive that it’s hard to ignore a Democratic Congress.

    Then, if Bush waffles, the Dems can point that out and say “look, he has no plan, we have no choice but to get out rather than keep our troops dying for no plan.”

    Or if there *is* a plan, then its merits can be debated & the Dems can read the polls.

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  6. Greywolf says:

    Mario:
    1) The “worst” did happen it Vietnam…and Cambodia.

    2) Iraq IS a mess, but getting out means leaving the second largest oil reserve in the hands of “who”?

    Oil??? We are going to got “energy independence”…any day now.

    Just listen to the journalism majors and lawyers who infest our public debate.
    Do any of them have a clue about the technical/economic feasibility of “energy independence” ?
    No

    Our National Interest is closely tied to oil, no matter where it is.

  7. Steven Plunk says:

    Perhaps the worst did not happen in Vietnam but some very bad things did happen. As far as vacationing there today it’s more than thirty years since the war.

    Maintaining a force in Iraq is not about American pride it’s about sound policy and strategic goals. If we let our foreign policy and defense policy be decided by committee I think we will end up with a wishy washy plan that accomplishes no goals and damages our credibility worldwide. More importantly it damages our credibility in the middle east.

    This is not analogous to Vietnam in any way. From our entry into the war to the conduct of the war comparing the two is wrong in almost every way. The thing most alike is the overt political opportunism surrounding them. Some times it’s best to keep family business within the family instead of airing it out for all to see.

    I await the full tactical and strategic plan that the democrats owe us now that they have power in congress. Hopefully it is a good plan.

  8. anjin-san says:

    >I don’t think we’re going to be receptive to the notion there’s a fixed timetable at which we automatically pull out, because that could be a true disaster for the Iraqi people.

    As opposed to whats already happened?