Benchmarks for Withdrawal

BENCHMARKS FOR WITHDRAWAL….John Kerry is calling for a withdrawal plan from Iraq based on concrete benchmarks:

“The insurgency will not be defeated unless our troop levels are drawn down,” Kerry, D-Mass., said in a speech at Georgetown University.

“To undermine the insurgency,” he said, “we must instead simultaneously pursue both a political settlement and the withdrawal of American combat forces linked to specific, responsible benchmarks. At the first benchmark, the completion of December elections, we can start the process by reducing our forces by 20,000 troops over the course of the holidays.”

This sounds roughly correct to me. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t think there’s a big difference between timetables and benchmarks in practice, since the adoption of benchmarks inevitably leads to at least tacit timetables. What’s more, blogging about this subject has persuaded me that a benchmark-based plan retains most of the advantages of a timetable approach (reduces support for the insurgency, forces the Iraqi government to take security seriously, relieves strain on the American military) while avoiding some of the drawbacks (primarily that it gives the insurgents a withdrawal date to hold out for).

Now, will any other Democrats join Kerry? Hillary? Joe? Wes?

UPDATE: Extended excerpts from Kerry’s speech are here.