Iraqi PM, U.S. Commander: Cut and Run
Just days after President Bush and his Republican allies in Congress lambasted their Democratic opponents for supposedly wanting to "cut and run" in Iraq, the Iraqi government and American military leadership in Baghdad essentially endorsed the Democratic position to set a timeline to draw down U.S. troops.
As Newsweek first reported on Saturday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki endorsed a timetable for American withdrawal as part of 28-point national reconciliation plan submitted to the Iraqi parliament today. While Maliki proposed no final deadline date for the final pull out of coalition troops, his plan includes an aggressive roadmap for Iraqi security forces assuming greater control.
Meanwhile, General George Casey, the top American commander in Iraq, proposed a phased withdrawal plan of his own during a classified Pentagon briefing this week. His timetable calls for reducing the number of American combat brigades from 14 to 5 by the end of December 2007. (American troop levels would still be sizable, as training, logistics and air support teams would remain in country.)
While this clear consensus on conditions-based timeline should be seen shameless hypocrisy from the White House and the Pentagon, it may instead offer a coup for President Bush. Over the Washington Monthly, Kevin Drum rightly notes the strategic choice- and the political opportunity - for President Bush:
President Bush would be flatly insane to turn this opportunity down. It's precisely the kind of request he needs in order to declare victory, assure everyone that the job is close to done, and make it clear that he respects Iraqi sovereignty and doesn't plan to occupy their country forever. There would be no loss of face and no loss of national honor.
Conversely, if he resists it, it would be hard not to conclude that he was doing so solely because a "broad, conditions-based timetable" also happens to be exactly the position of the vast majority of the Democratic Party - and he would rather chew off his own big toe than do anything that might turn down the volume on the domestic partisan jihad that's been so politically successful for Republicans ever since 9/11. I guess we'll find out soon.
Sadly, the disgusting and irresponsible rhetoric from Karl Rove and the Republicans last week should make it clear which route the President will choose. Kicking off his post-Fitzgerald gloating, Rove in a New Hampshire address on June 13 said of the Democrats, "When it gets tough, they fall back on that party's old platform of cutting and running." President Bush echoed the John Boehner's party line last Monday, "It is important to have members of the United States Congress who will not wave the white flag of surrender in this war on terror." Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, rejecting two different Democratic timetable proposals, preached "surrender is not a solution," adding that "if we break our promise and cut and run, as some would have us do, the implications could be catastrophic." While House Speaker Dennis Hastert claimed setting a withdrawal date "would be to cut and run and wait for [terrorists] to regroup and bring the terror back to our shores," Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell parroted, "Do we want to send a message to the terrorists that we're going to run?"
Some, like Michigan Democratic Senator Carl Levin, believes President Bush will try to have it both ways, seeking to paint the Democrats as weak on defense while shamelessly drawing down U.S. troop levels in Iraq in time for the 2006 mid-term elections. Two-faced, perhaps, but it wouldn't be the first time.