Withdrawal Symptoms Revisited

WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS REVISITED….David Ignatius writes today that Centcom’s top generals are talking about drawing down forces in Iraq over the next year. Here’s why:

They don’t want the current struggle against Iraqi insurgents, who are nasty but militarily insignificant, to undermine U.S. efforts against the larger threat posed by al Qaeda terrorists, who would kill hundreds of thousands of Americans if they could.

….Among the precepts they discussed here: “use the indirect approach” by working with Iraqi and other partner forces; “avoid the dependency syndrome” by making the Iraqis take responsibility for their own security and governance; and “remove the perception of occupation” by reducing the size and visibility of American forces.

Look, these are our top commanders talking, and they’re saying the same thing I did a month ago: we need to draw down our troop levels in order to (a) prevent military overstretch, which limits our ability fight al-Qaeda, (b) force the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own security and (c) “remove the perception of occupation,” since it’s obvious that this perception helps fuel the insurgency. What’s more, they’re talking about roughly the same timeframe I did.

Can we please now take this seriously? These aren’t a bunch of peaceniks yammering away on a blog. These are our most senior generals in the field, and they think (a) we need to draw down, (b) we need to start the drawdown within a year (with a goal of getting to troop levels “that will focus on training and advising the Iraqi military”), and (c) we need to finish the drawdown within “several years.”

If these are the right reasons and the right timetable for a drawdown ? and I think they are ? then all that’s left is to figure out what goals we need to meet in order to begin the drawdown. There’s no need to put firm dates to those goals if that’s a complete nonstarter, but we still need to make the goals public so that taxpayers can judge whether we’re making progress toward meeting them. After all, we’re the ones paying for this war.

If the Pentagon brass is willing to talk about this, why aren’t Democratic politicians?