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.