Kerry: Troops out by end of ’06 Posted by: McQ
on Friday, June 16, 2006
John Kerry has an op/ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer today in which he makes the usual and increasingly invalid comparisons to Vietnam to bolster what can only be characterized as a weak rational for pulling our troops out of Iraq by the end of the year:
Half of those whose names are inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial were lost after America's leaders knew our strategy would not succeed. It was immoral then, and it is immoral now, to be quiet or equivocal in the face of such delusion.
Our soldiers, no matter how brave, can't bring democracy to Iraq simply with a gun barrel; the Iraqis themselves must build their democracy. And it will never be done if Iraq's leaders are unwilling to make the compromises that democracy requires.
The confirmation of Iraq's vital cabinet ministers to run the police force and army, coupled with the killing of the brutal terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, are an opportunity to change the course in Iraq - if we seize it.
Three assusmptions are made here which I simply reject. One that either war (VN or Iraq) was/is immoral and two, that the way to "change the course in Iraq" given our the recent progress, is to withdraw our troops and three, Iraqi leaders aren't making the necessary compromises which the transition to democracy requires.
To buy into Kerry's argument you must agree to all three. Some will object to my characterization of Kerry's call to have our troops out of Iraq as "get out now", since the year's end is many months away. But that is essentially what he's calling for. Anyone familiar with how long it takes to move that number of troops anywhere knows it would have to begin today. The signal that would send to the insurgency as well as the Iraqi people would do irreparable harm. The insurgency would take strength from its apparent success and most likely step up attacks (thereby strengthening it's subsequent claims of victory (propaganda works for both sides) over the US after our withdrawal and also strengthening its position within Iraq).
At a time when clear progress is being made on all fronts, I can't think of a worse strategy. A government which was clearly moribund has demonstrated initiative and a desire to establish its authority, both made through compromise. Key cabinet posts are finally being filled. A massive anti-insurgency operation is being conducted in Baghdad. An inertia is building which will carry the day if husbanded, protected and encouraged. We have exited the "crawl" stage of nation building and we've entered the "walk" stage. And if we walk away now we risk that inertia slowing and dying.
Kerry claims that the Iraqis only respond to hard fast deadlines. Such top-down authoritarian, one-size-fits-all declarations oversimplify a very complex situation. There are certainly situations in which hard and clear deadlines make sense, but if the intent is actually ensure a secure and stable Iraq and not to just go through the motions in order to satisfy the timeline, then his argument simply makes no sense. Arbitrary timelines will not ensure success in Iraq. Accomplishment of our stated goals will. That is why the majority of Congress still rejects the swan-song of deadlines as the Senate did yesterday on a vote of 93-6.
Kerry claims that he really doesn't want to abandon Iraq so much as remove our troops from harm's way. His strategy is an "over the horizon" strategy which would have our troops out of Iraq proper (probably in Kuwait) but not on the ground every day in Iraq. Our job would then be the fire brigade called in when situations were dire. Other than that, the Iraqis would handle it.
A couple of points. First, the Iraqis aren't ready to handle it. They're very close, but they need more time and they need in-country support right now, not "over the horizon support". As we've noted here, this is the year of getting the command and control and logistics arm stood up and functioning. That can't be done "over the horizion". Until it is functioning, the Iraqis can't field the number of battalions necessary to cover all the territory now covered by coalition troops. Until they can, it is senseless to abandon the field to the insurgency. When the Iraqis can effectively take that territory themselves I see absolutely no problem with an "over the horizon" redeployment. But that will most likely be in late '07.
Second point. Fire brigade missions are eminently more dangerous than the routine patrolling we're doing on a daily basis there now. We're talking battalion or multi-battalion deployments into combat and the inherent casualties those sorts of operations bring. Unless the Iraqis are prepared to do their job competently before we withdraw, we'll be running fire brigade operations constantly. That is not a position in which we want to find ourselves. We want the fire brigade to be a contingency which is rarely if ever exercised. Ensuring the Iraqi security apparatus and army are prepared to properly defend their homeland is how you do that.
Key to this transition is a long overdue engagement in serious and sustained diplomacy. To give Iraq its best hope for a peaceful future, the administration should convene a summit that includes the leaders of that country, its neighbors, and representatives from the Arab League, NATO, the United Nations and the European Union to forge the comprehensive political solution that is necessary to bring stability to Iraq. Making it clear that America will not stay in Iraq forever pressures the regional players to step up and assume their fair share of the burden.
Kerry conditions this "redeployment" on a political pipe-dream. Rhetorically it sounds wonderful. Practically it is a fantasy. There isn't going to be any help any time soon from any European leader for Iraq. Not one of those not already engaged in Iraq is going to agree to participate even under the guise of a UN or NATO mission. None of them are going to set themselves up to be the next Tony Blair.
So while this may play well among some, it's just not anything which reflects political possibility, much less reality.
The time has come for a Congress that shares responsibility for getting us into Iraq to take responsibility for helping to get us out. Sure, we were misled. But we know it now - and we know the truth. We must demand a change in policy, a change in course. Our soldiers have done their job. It is time for Iraqis to do their job: to stand up for Iraq. It's time for Iraqis to want democracy for themselves as much as we want it for them.
This is a moment when American patriotism demands more dissent and less complacency in the face of stubborn pride from those in power. It is not enough to argue with details or logistics, with the manner of the conflict's execution, or the failures of competence, as great as they are.
It is essential to acknowledge that the war itself was a mistake - to say the simple words that contain more truth than pride: I was misled. I was wrong to vote for the Iraq resolution. I will fight to set a deadline to redeploy American forces. We cannot change the future unless we are honest about the past. We cannot have it both ways on the Iraq war. It is time at last to make the policy right - for our troops, and for Iraq.
Kerry ends with the usual "dissent is patriotism" mumbo jumbo. Rhetorical cover for those who want us to get out. Fine. But make a case that is at least rational, practical and doesn't ignore the progress on the ground in order to make contrary rhetorical points that have no grounding in reality.
Iraq is making progress. Slow but inexorable. Iraq is standing up and taking charge. Again, slow but inexorable. The insurgency is suffering set-backs. The Sunnis are beginning to buy into the government, mostly through the art of compromise. All things which Kerry claims aren't happening.
Kerry's plan and ideas simply defy reality. Certainly all of us want our troops out of Iraq at the soonest possible moment. And we'd love to do that today. But if we did as Mr. Kerry demands, we'd deliver a blow to that slow but inexorable progress from which Iraq may never recover. And that, in my opinion, would indeed be immoral.
Half of those whose names are inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial were lost after America’s leaders knew our strategy would not succeed. It was immoral then, and it is immoral now, to be quiet or equivocal in the face of such delusion.
I don’t know if he is indicting either war as immoral. I think what I have highlighted above is what he is talking about. IE it is immoral to continue with a strategy that is failing.
So, in order to buy-in to his pipe-dream of a plan, you would have to "know" our strategy will not succeed.
Of course, facts on the ground seem to indicate that our strategy is succeeding.
Kerry is clueless....and, with each passing day, it becomes more and more irrefutable that the Nation would have paid a serious price had he been elected in 2004. For someone who cherishes his military record, one has to wonder how his thinking could be so devoid of any appreciation for military/political strategy. It makes you almost think that he would say anything....adopt any policy....that he thought might advance his political prospects, the national interest be darned. As said above, the Nation would have paid a serious price had he been elected in 2004....and God help us if he were to run and win in 2008!
"As we’ve noted here, this is the year of getting the command and control and logistics arm stood up and functioning."
Well, 2004 or 2005 would have been better years for that. There has indeed been some good news out of Iraq, mainly the firming up of the cabinet and of course killing Zarqawi. If Bolani takes proactive steps to reign in the many militias that have infiltrated Interior as he recently vowed to do that would really be a stellar sign. Here’s hoping he can do it without taking too much heat from his own party. But though it’s early he’s been reluctant to explain how he plans to go about this.
President Jalal Talabani has said that the peshmerga force should not be considered a militia because they had fought Saddam, but the same can be said of the Badr Brigades.
As always I have my fingers crossed, but arriving at "turning point #2103" has taught me to be only cautiously optimistic.
Like Kerry, I am a VN vet who was exceedingly angry when I realized that over half of the names on the wall died after I left that country in May, 1968.
Unlike Kerry, however, my anger is and has been directed at those who never could decide what the mission of our troops was during the early part of that war. Result: Two commands with diametrically opposed missions in VN; MACV which was charged with "winning the hearts and minds" and USARV which was charged with "killing as many g**** [a vulgar name loosely meaning bad Vietnamese] as possible".
From 1966,(when I went on active duty, and the increase in troop levels in VN began in earnest) through 1969, a period of three years, a little over 17,000 troops had been killed.
In Iraq, the in country command has been unified with a series of coordinated, and consistent missions: Destroy Saddam’s Army, roll up the Baathist regime, improve and repair the infrastructure, defeat and isolate the insurgency, facilitate the Iraqis establishment of a viable democratically elected government, train and equip an effective military and police force to be under the control of Iraq’s newly elected government.
After three years in Iraq, we have lost 2500 troops (2000 in combat), and by most reasonable measures, there is far more progress than was evident at the end of 1969 in VN. Saddam’s army has been destroyed (the VC army had been destroyed, but the NVA army was well equipped and fighting well in SVN). The Baathist regime has been destroyed (the VC infrastructure had been destroyed, but the North VN government was replacing it, and had plenty of manpower to devote to SVN). There have been improvements to infrastructure in Iraq (There was some improvement of infrastructure in SVN in 1969, but not much). The Iraq insurgency has been isolated, and is well on its way to being defeated. It is relegated to killing civilians with use of car and vest suicide bombs. (The VC insurgency had been destroyed, but was replaced by NVA regulars). A viable government has been democratically elected in Iraq. (That never happened in SVN, and, of course, had not happened by 1969.) There has been much progress in training and equipping both a viable police force and a viable military and police force. (Again, that happened to some extent in SVN, but not sufficiently to defeat the North Vietnamese).
I think the facts speak for themselves.
In my judgment, Kerry’s position is poorly thought out and poorly documented.