Wednesday :: Nov 15, 2006

Abizaid Snuffs McCain And Withdrawal Talk At The Same Time

by Steve

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The conventional wisdom since the election is that both the Democrats and the administration will use the Baker/Hamilton Iraq Study Group report and Robert Gates’ appointment as their excuse to change course in Iraq and withdraw. I disagree. Those around both the 41 and 43 camps are not committed to leaving any time soon.

Last night I posted the Washington Post story today about the White House’s hurried effort to come up with its own Iraq policy review, to do something in two months that the Baker/Hamilton folks have been doing in eight, and without any regional experts. In other words, the Bush Administration is hurriedly assembling a pre-rebuttal to the Baker report, a slapdash report, like they did on the 2002 Iraq WMD NIE, to form the basis for their refusal to be bullied.

On a day that six more Americans were killed, the White House realizes several things. First, they can manufacture a pushback against both the Baker/Hamilton report and the yet-to-take-power Democrats by playing the cards they still hold in this game, namely the troops who can create the “situation on the ground” narrative necessary to question the credibility and judgment of their detractors. As part of this pushback campaign today, our commanders on cue have now warned against setting a timeline for withdrawal and are even going so far as to say that things are getting better. This is exactly what you want your generals to say in a pushback campaign against outsiders. I will say however that even that flaming liberal Lindsey Graham pointedly pinned General Abizaid down today to dismiss McCain's claim that we need more troops in Iraq, and to tell him publicly that his constituents don't think we should stay if the Iraqis won't deal with their own problems. This resulted in McCain getting kneecapped on video.

The White House may think that the Democrats are stepping too far and too fast ahead of American public opinion on the issue. The Newsweek and AP/Ipsos polls reflect that Iraq is the public's number one issue, with the Newsweek poll showing that the public feels Democrats will move too fast towards a withdrawal. Yet this is exactly what Carl Levin and to a lesser degree Joe Biden and Harry Reid are doing by publicly pressuring the White House in this direction. I cut Reid some slack here because his comments are a little more tempered than those of Levin, and because Reid laid out an ambitious and well-thought agenda for the Senate in an interview with the Post, wherein he called for hearings on Iraq but also for new money to replenish the Army; restoring “pay as you go” budget rules and the Clinton-era top tax rate on upper incomes; and looking at Teddy Kennedy’s idea of expanding Medicare as a possible solution to the uninsured.

Democrats need to realize that the White House is already campaigning against both them and the Baker report, and will once again whack the Democrats for endangering the troops by talking publicly about timelines and a withdrawal. Rather than focusing so much on timelines and withdrawal talk between now and the release of the Baker report, Democrats should focus their administration critiques on preempting what else will likely be in the report, and what Bush has failed to do: convene an immediate regional security and economic conference amongst Iraq’s neighbors; seal the borders; directly engage Syria and Iran; finish the job in Afghanistan; demand that the Iraqi government obtain a sectarian cease fire amongst the militias; and yes, perhaps redirect more troops into Baghdad and al-Anbar province to work with the Sunni tribesmen to snuff out Al Qaeda. Unless these things are done, we will not only leave Iraq in much worse shape than we found it, but we will make it difficult for our troops to get out safely, and that should be the primary focus of Democratic critiques.

Steve :: 10:43 AM :: Comments (21) :: Digg It!