The Politics of Withdrawal
Much is being made of the notion that the Democrats are going to do all in their power to force a withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. While I continue to doubt the capacity of the Congress to force (sans extraordinary, if not unprecedented, action) such a move, there is another power that may lead to a substantial draw down: politics.
There can be no doubt that both parties are painfully aware that 2008 is on the horizon and it doesn’t take a genius to know that Iraq is going to be central to that election. An excellent point was made on This Week yesterday (I think by Cokie Roberts, but since This Week is too cheap, unlike MTP, to provide free transcripts, I can’t check) wherein it was noted that the Democrats don’t want to win in 2008 to inherit Iraq in January 2009 and nor do the Republicans want to have to run by defending Iraq in 2008. As such, there are incentives for both parties to wish to get out of Iraq.
I would argue that the notion that there is this dichotomy of the Republicans/staying to finish the job v. Democrats/leave as soon as possible is a radical oversimplification of the situation. For one thing, the Reps, as a party, may be far less interested in staying as many think that they are. For another, the Democrats are quite aware of what it will look like for 2008 if they come in and look like cowards who “cut and run” and so forth.
Now, do I think that we will be out by before the ’08 elections? This strikes me as unlikely, but I do except some serious policy shifts. The President is also in a position to be able to present a public face of being the guy who wants to finish the job, but who can then use the Democrat’s pressure as cover for changing policy. Something along those lines seems likely, as Bush doesn’t like to admit mistakes, but he can now couch serious policy changes in the context of “understanding the message the American people sent in the elections” as well as in the context of pressure from the newly minted 110th Congress and its new Democratic masters.
[cross-posted at PoliBlog]