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Levin Starts Iraq Pullout Debate

Sen. Carl Levin.
by Pamela Hess
UPI Pentagon Correspondent
Washington (UPI) Nov 13, 2006
U.S. troops should begin coming home from Iraq in the next four to six months, the next chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said Monday.

"Most Democrats share the view that we should pressure the White House to commence the phased redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq in four to six months, to begin that phased redeployment, and thereby to make it clear to the Iraqis that our presence is not open-ended and that they must take and make the necessary political compromises to preserve Iraq as a nation. We cannot save the Iraqis from themselves," said Sen. Carl Levin, D- Mich., on Monday at a Capitol Hill press conference.

With those words, the debate over how and whether to conduct a "phased withdrawal" from Iraq has officially begun.

"We're getting deeper and deeper into a hole that we should stop digging, and that we should look for alternatives in order to promote the chances of success in Iraq," Levin said.

Levin has long advocated telling the Iraqi government that U.S. troops would be withdrawn unless it made the political compromises needed to bring Iraq together.

"They and they alone, are going to decide whether they're going to have a nation or whether they're going to have an all-out civil war. We have given them the opportunity, at huge cost of blood and treasure, to have a nation should they choose it. But it is up to them, not us, not our brave and not our valiant troops. It's up to the Iraqi leadership. Do they want a civil war or do they want a nation?" Levin said.

The decision to conduct a phased withdrawal - that is, pulling out thousands of troops at a time, over time -- rests on the answers to a series of simple questions:

Will the withdrawal of a significant number of U.S. troops improve or degrade security in Iraq?

Will Iraq's security forces be able to sustain the fight without daily U.S. backing?

If security would be further degraded in Iraq, will that necessarily threaten the United States?

And even if it does, is that reason enough for U.S. troops to stay? Do the benefits outweigh the continued cost in lives and money?

There are ancillary questions, as well - does the United States have a moral obligation to Iraqis not to pull out its troops if it means security will worsen?

And should the United States, conversely, send in 20,000 additional troops to try to tip the balance in favor of security, as Sen. John McCain suggested at the end of October?

The answers to these questions are anything but simple.

The nightmare scenario in Iraq is leaving it with an unstable government or a government that leaves vast tracts of land ungoverned. Iraq shares long, unsecured borders with six key countries in the Middle East, including Turkey, a NATO ally and it has huge oil reserves. Uncontrolled, it could easily become a new safe harbor for al-Qaida or other terrorist networks, but without the comparative disadvantages of Afghanistan - its terrain, its undeveloped economy, its remoteness.

But that possibility alone is not a reason to stay, a senior military official with significant experience in Iraq told UPI.

"World War II was supposed to stop tyranny in Europe and we ended up with the Iron Curtain. (If Iraq turns into a Taliban-era Afghanistan) we'll have to deal with that one.

He said the outcome of the midterm election suggests the American people may not support the war in significant enough numbers to continue. The challenge will be to withdraw troops in a way that does not degrade security.

"Clearly if the people don't want us there it's time for us to leave, but to leave in an orderly way where we don't create more problems on the way out," the officer said. "But it's got to be integrated with the Iraq government. I think there is a lot to be said for how we do it. That will be the proof -- whether or not we give them a chance to make it. We can't just pull the rug out. But we can't stay there forever either."

It's a forcing function; they (the Iraqis) have got to stand on their own two feet," he said. "But we have to do it in a way doesn't pull them out at the roots."

Another senior official with a long command deployment in Iraq warned that a U.S. troops withdrawal would diminish U.S.influence over Iraq's security forces, which have a spotty human rights record.

"It will remove our restraint on a culture in which detainees were not treated very well in the past (in an "eye for an eye" region)," he told UPI.

The officer endorsed the approach laid out in the Washington Post by Dennis Ross, a diplomat under President Bill Clinton and President George Herbert Walker Bush, the current president's father.

"I'd be more inclined to pursue the Dennis Ross approach after the elections and see if the Iraqi government is serious or not," he said.

The Iraq Study Group, a 10-member commission led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former House Foreign Relations Committee chairman Lee Hamilton, is studying possible future options for U.S. policies on Iraq. CBS News reported in October the group will recommend the withdrawal of five percent of American forces from Iraq every two months.

The Baker-Hamilton commission spent Monday at the White House meeting with top cabinet officials, including outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace. Robert Gates, Bush's nominee to replace Rumsfeld as secretary of defense, has resigned as a member of the ISG.

earlier related report
Wars And Elections
by William S. Lind - UPI Contributor Washington (UPI) Nov 14 - Lose a war, lose an election. What else should anyone expect, especially when the war is one we never had to fight? Had Spain defeated us in 1898, does anyone think Theodore Roosevelt would have been elected in 1900? A logical corollary is, lose two wars, lose two elections. With the war in Afghanistan following that in Iraq down the tube, 2008 may not be a Republican year.

Even better, by 2008 the American people may have figured out that the two parties are really one party, neither wing of which knows or much cares what it is doing. The vehicle for this realization may once again be the war in Iraq. The next two years, rather than seeing us extricate ourselves from the Iraqi swamp, are likely to witness us floundering ever deeper into it.

The lesson of last week's election, in which the Republicans lost both Houses of Congress, will not be lost on either party. Both Republican and Democratic senators and congressmen will now agree that the war is a disaster we need to extricate ourselves from. The White House won't admit it, but it has to see the situation the same way. George Bush and Dick Cheney may not, but Bush's brain, Karl Rove, certainly does. The puppet must, in the end, obey the puppeteer.

What, then, will keep us in Iraq? While both parties want to get out, neither has nor will be able to create a consensus on how to get out. Not only will they be unable to generate a consensus between the parties, or between the executive branch and Congress, they will not be able to find consensus within either party on how the withdrawal is to be managed. The result will be paralysis and a continuation of the war.

Part of the reason Washington will not be able to agree on a plan for coming home from Iraq is political. Neither party wants to enable the other to blame it in 2008 for "losing Iraq." The Democrats are especially fearful of anything that would seem to make them look "weak on defense."

But a greater part of the reason for fateful indecision will be the very real fact that there are no good options. If we stay in Iraq, the civil war there will intensify, with American troops caught in the middle. Already, all those troops are doing is serving in Operation Provide Targets, with casualty rates that continue to rise.

But if we withdraw, the civil war will intensify all the more rapidly. Unless that civil war is won by someone, someone who can re-create an Iraqi state, Iraq will become a stateless region of permanent chaos, a generator and supplier of the non-state Islamic forces who are our real enemy. That may also happen if the wrong elements win the civil war, extremist Shiites allied with Iran or extremist Sunnis with strong al-Qaida sympathies. The factions who might create a government we could live with are either Baathist or connected with the current Iraqi government, neither of which is likely to come out on top. Eggs, once broken, are hard to unscramble.

In the absence of any good options, politicians of both parties in Washington, not wanting to hold the bag for the inevitable failure, will be able to agree only on a series of half-measures. We will train still more Iraqi troops or police, ignoring that both are mostly militiamen for one or another faction. We will pull our troops back into remote bases, where most already stay, remaining in Iraq while the civil war boils up around us. We will try to get the regional powers to help us out, despite the fact that those who would can't, and those who can have no reason to do so. We will steam in circles, scream and shout, hoping desperately for a deus ex machina rescue that is unlikely to appear.

In a reality neither Republicans nor Democrats will dare face, we have only one option left in Iraq. That option is to admit failure and withdraw. We can do it sooner, or, at the cost of more American dead and wounded, we can do it later. Obviously, sooner is better, but that would require a bold decision, which no one in Washington is willing to make.

In World War I, after the failure of the Schlieffen Plan, my reporting senior, Kaiser Wilhelm II, wanted an early, compromise peace. Regrettably, he was unwilling to force that policy on his recalcitrant generals.

Today, in Washington, the generals want peace. They could give the politicians of both parties and both relevant branches of government the cover they need to make peace, by going public in favor of an early withdrawal. Unfortunately, that would require a level of moral courage not notably evident in the senior American military. In its absence, the whole American political system will continue to flounder in a sea of half-measures, American troops will continue to die in a lost war, and the crisis of legitimacy of the American state will continue to grow.

Source: United Press International

Related Links
Senate Armed Services Committee
Iraq: The first techonology war of the 21st century

Blair Urges Bush To Alter Policy
Paris (UPI) Nov 14, 2006
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, one of President George W. Bush's most ardent supporters in the triple wars -- Iraq, Afghanistan and the war on terrorism -- is urging the American president to consider using all of his clout and make a dramatic U-turn from current Iraq policy. A policy which, if left unchanged, more and more experts, analysts and politicians agree will lead to nothing short of disaster.

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