From The Wall Street Journal:
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and some allies in the Bush administration are seeking to build bipartisan political support for a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq by moving toward withdrawing significant numbers of troops from Iraq by the end of President Bush’s term.
The complicating factor is how long the administration will stick with its “surge” strategy of keeping high levels of troops in Iraq to try to tamp down violence there. On this issue, the administration — and even the military — is deeply divided.
The longer the surge lasts, the harder it will be to achieve the longed-for political consensus. Without such agreement, Bush administration officials fear, the U.S. could be forced into a hasty withdrawal that could have dire consequences both for the region and for U.S. stature in the world.
The Journal has picked up — and elaborated upon the political aspects of — the story I first noted in discussing what’s been floating around the upper echelons of the military intelligentsia for a short while now.
From Small Wars Journal Blog piece entitled “Plan B in Iraq” by Fernando Martinez Lujan:
Regardless of “the Surge’s” outcome this summer, growing domestic political pressure will likely soon force American decision-makers to “pull the plug” on the large US troop presence in Iraq. Faced with this difficult situation, senior military and civilian leaders must act now to develop a viable “Plan B” as an alternative to precipitous, forced troop withdrawal. By necessity, this Plan B must incorporate both a smaller, sustainable troop presence and a series of sweeping organizational reforms to address the military’s badly outdated intervention strategies.
This is definitely a variation on the expressed strategy of the Bush administration (I’m not certain Secretary of Defense Gates would have come out with it without upper-level approval), and a policy shift of which I don’t think the Democrats have taken full and effective advantage.
To counter Republican claims that a withdrawal would send the region into chaos and provide a safe haven for terrorists (which a full, immediate withdrawal wouldresult in), Democrats can support this reasonable and logical strategy for withdrawal proposed by senior military officers.