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    15 April 2007

    Reminder: the plan for the ending the occupation of Iraq

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    This one is pretty good, party neutral and conscience of politics at both levels (domestic and international). From Steven Simon at CFR in Sunday's Globe. I'll begin where he ends:
    Every day that US troops remain in Iraq drives up the cost of gains already made: the elimination of Saddam Hussein and the opening of a door, however narrow, to democracy. The fact is that America must plan its departure from Iraq without achieving many of its goals. The tragedy of the US intervention is compounded by the need to trade the lives of more American soldiers for the time needed for an orderly withdrawal that doesn't leave Iraq completely in the lurch. The sooner the administration and its opponents grasp this nettle, the better.

    Now a snippet of the substance... We'd all be well served if the Democrats and Republicans consider Simon's proposal (.pdf) (for a brief summary see pages 39-42):
    What's needed is a timetable that meshes with politics at home and military and diplomatic realities in the Middle East. Washington will need to negotiate its withdrawal with the Iraqi government, assemble a coalition of neighbors to keep foreign fighters out of Iraq, cope with refugees from Iraq, help moderate Sunnis battle Al Qaeda, foster reconstruction, impede meddling outsiders, and plan for a humanitarian rescue if sectarian violence explodes after US forces leave.
    ...
    This will require Democrats to take a more sober look at the practicalities of withdrawal, as well as their potential political vulnerabilities, and Republicans to press for the post-surge drawdown that Defense Secretary Robert Gates described to Congress in February. As a practical matter, this means a more or less complete withdrawal of combat forces by late 2008 or early 2009. Apart from being the most realistic time frame, this schedule would relieve the next president of the political and strategic burdens of disengagement.

    At this point, though, even Republicans who see the war as futile have little incentive to back a withdrawal timetable. Many Republican voters still support the war, and the Democratic alternative -- rapid withdrawal coupled to an unenforceable budget cut -- looks more like a thrown gauntlet than a practical proposal. A plan predicated on a serious strategic calculus, however, would give Republicans something to embrace without appearing to turn coat. Nor could the White House easily dismiss such a plan as a partisan political maneuver. For Republicans running for reelection, a plan that took Iraq off the table before November 2008 might well be seductive.

    And if the president were to spurn a reasonable, bipartisan off ramp, as he did with the Baker-Hamilton Report? Back to politics as usual. The Democrats will resurrect their budget hammer, congressional Republicans will be hamstrung as constituents who still supported the war in 2007 no longer show the same faith, and the incoming administration will have to manage rear guard actions against insurgents in Iraq and the opposition party at home. Just when America needs to demonstrate it can still act effectively, it will be paralyzed.

    In the above .pdf, Simon's plan allows time for the surge to work and recommends that once the results are in then his plan will commence (though much of it can be done while the surge is surging). That was February... He doesn't come out and say directly that this surge has failed but any honest analyst can now conclude that -- at the very least -- the surge is an underachiever, that the U.S. public resolve will not permit this president and his administration to hide from failure by impugning congressional resolutions or by fear mongering and nor will the ever shifting sands of the Middle East facilitate this occupation (for the ME is much larger than one city and more complex than most in DC or in the military realize). Simon writes, "The Democrats, who recognize that victory in Iraq is unachievable, have reason on their side." Whether this "reason" stems from strategic realities, public opinion, or -- and most likely -- both, is just his way of being polite.

    Posted by Geoff

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