Man Without Qualities

Monday, November 21, 2005

Inconsistent Refrains

The long established Democratic refrain that there are not enough Allied "boots on the ground" in Iraq continues unabated, as reflected in this TIME magazine article, for example:

There are about 160,000 U.S. troops now in Iraq, a number U.S. commanders in the region plan to maintain at least through the Iraqi national assembly elections on Dec. 15. But the battalion commanders, according to sources close to last week's meeting, said that because there are not enough troops, they have to "leapfrog" around Iraq to keep insurgents from returning to towns that have been cleared out. The officers also stressed that the lack of manpower--rather than of protective armor or signal jammers--posed one of the biggest obstacles in dealing with roadside bombs, which have caused the majority of U.S. casualties in Iraq.
Yet, more recently, there has been a new refrain, as represented for example by the confused and ambiguous statements of Rep. John Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat, who last week called for an American troop withdrawal from Iraq either "within the next six months" or perhaps immediately. Whatever Mr. Murtha's intentions might have been, Senator Biden says he disagrees with "respected voices on military matters" like Rep. John Murtha in saying that the Senator "does not support bringing the troops home now. Rather, he said, 50,000 U.S. troops should leave Iraq by the end of 2006 and "a significant number" of the remaining 100,000 should leave in 2007."

This all raises the puzzling issue for such Democrats: If it is the absence of sufficient "boots on the ground" that creates the worst of the security problems (and results in most of the fatalities) for American troops in Iraq (as the TIME refrain insists), then doesn't an extended 2006-2007-and-beyond withdrawal of the type Senator Biden contemplates all but guarantee at least two years of greatly increasing this exact security risk and therefore the resulting American fatalities? What does Senator Biden think will happen during the more than two-year withdrawal period he is proposing, a period during which American troop levels will be much lower than they are now? He seems to think that at least as things stand now, what he is proposing would sharply increase casualties, but that somehow that increase can also be avoided:
"I still believe we can preserve our fundamental security interests in Iraq as we begin to redeploy our forces," Sen. Joseph Biden .... "Right now, our troops are the only guarantor against chaos," he said, but the military presence "is also, increasingly, part of the problem."
Do "our fundamental security interests" (as Senator Biden uses this term) include minimizing the loss of the lives of our servicemen? And if the Senator (or any Democrat) knows of some way of doing that better than is now the case while reducing the number of Americans in Iraq, why won't he share his secret?

Of course, if one thinks that the overall political and security situation in Iraq is improving and will continue to improve, then a phased withdrawal of the type contemplated by the Senator makes perfect sense, and is fully consistent with reducing American casualties. Indeed, that is what the Bush administration is hoping for. But Democrats advocating a phased withdrawal seem to be in the position of arguing that (1) the overall situation in Iraq is improving and that a phased withdrawal therefore will not increase American casualities during the years of withdrawal or (2) a multi-year period of increased casualities is acceptable or (3) the whole "not enough boots on the ground" refrain is simply wrong.

None of these alternatives seem to be politically viable. Perhaps that is why Senator Clinton, who also construes Rep. Murtha as calling for an "immediate withdrawal," has distanced herself from whatever it is he proposed as well as from timelines such as that proposed by Senator Biden:

Clinton, who is running for re-election to the Senate and is seen as a likely presidential candidate in 2008, suggested that the United States wait for Iraq's Dec. 15 elections for an indication about how soon the Iraqis can take over. "Until they vote for a government, I don't know that we will have adequate information about how prepared they are," she said.

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