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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

John Kerry Steps Up on Iraq: A REAL Exit Plan

In a NYT op-ed today, John Kerry calls for a REAL exit strategy for Iraq.

First he notes the immorality; the parallel with Vietnam in knowing that our military strategy cannot achieve our stated objectives, it would be immoral to continue in Iraq as we did in Vietnam:
Two Deadlines and an Exit
Published: April 5, 2006

WE are now in the third war in Iraq in as many years. The first was against Saddam Hussein and his supposed weapons of mass destruction. The second was against terrorists whom, the administration said, it was better to fight over there than here. Now we find our troops in the middle of an escalating civil war.

Half of the service members listed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall died after America's leaders knew our strategy would not work. It was immoral then and it would be immoral now to engage in the same delusion.


As our generals have said, the war cannot be won militarily. It must be won politically. No American soldier should be sacrificed because Iraqi politicians refuse to resolve their ethnic and political differences.

Kerry notes that the only things that have "worked" so far in our Iraq policy have been enforcing deadlines - so now it is time to apply that working strategy to create an actual exit plan that will work, and meanwhile (hopefully) impel the Iraqis to work out their governance problem.
So far, Iraqi leaders have responded only to deadlines — a deadline to transfer authority to a provisional government, and a deadline to hold three elections.
Now we must set another deadline to extricate our troops and get Iraq up on its own two feet.

He then lays out the following terms of the deadline deal:

IF (and only if) the May 15 deadline is met with formation of a unity government:


To increase the pressure on Iraq's leaders, we must redeploy American forces to garrisoned status. Troops should be used for security backup, training and emergency response; we should leave routine patrols to Iraqi forces. Special operations against Al Qaeda and other foreign terrorists in Iraq should be initiated only on hard intelligence leads.

However Kerry does leave open the possibility of some residual forces after the December '06 withdrawal:
Only troops essential to finishing the job of training Iraqi forces should remain.

But note that he calls for removal of combat forces and leaving only "essential" troops for a specific mission. That means a 10,000 troop drawdown from the current 150,000 or so, will not fill the bill. As I read it, it does mean that we might leave as many as 10,000 there, although I am guessing that is not what Senator Kerry has in mind, and I would hope the drawdown would be more thorough than that. Well, if a plan by a leading Democrat had a snowball's chance in a very hot place of getting implemented, anyway.

Next, Kerry calls for brokering a "Dayton Accords-like summit meeting," engaging the various Iraqi leaders, the UN and the Arab League. (For those who don't remember, the 1995 Dayton Accords ended the Bosnian War.:

For this transition to work, we must finally begin to engage in genuine diplomacy. We must immediately bring the leaders of the Iraqi factions together at a Dayton Accords-like summit meeting. In a neutral setting, Iraqis, working with our allies, the Arab League and the United Nations, would be compelled to reach a political agreement that includes security guarantees, the dismantling of the militias and shared goals for reconstruction.

And finally a summarization of the rationale for an exit plan like this:
We will defeat Al Qaeda faster when we stop serving as its best recruitment tool. Iraqis ultimately will not tolerate foreign jihadists on their soil, and the United States will be able to maintain an over-the-horizon troop presence with rapid response capacity. An exit from Iraq will also strengthen our hand in dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat and allow us to repair the damage of repeated deployments, which flag officers believe has strained military readiness and morale.

For three years now, the administration has told us that terrible things will happen if we get tough with the Iraqis. In fact, terrible things are happening now because we haven't gotten tough enough. With two deadlines, we can change all that. We can put the American leadership on the side of our soldiers and push the Iraqi leadership to do what only it can do: build a democracy.

Kerry was quickly backed up by Russ Feingold, who declared:
Since August 18, 2005 I have been calling on the Administration to aim to redeploy U.S. military personnel from Iraq by the end of this year so that we can focus on the threat posed by global terrorist networks. I applaud Senator Kerry's call today for our combat forces to be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of this year. Senator Kerry has been a strong leader in calling for a clear, coherent strategy to complete our military mission in Iraq while engaging Iraq's leaders with genuine diplomacy. Having just visited Iraq last month, I witnessed the desperate need for Iraqi politicians to form a unity government to prevent the country from falling deeper into violence. Senator Kerry is absolutely right to say that the end of this year is a reasonable target date for redeploying our troops in Iraq.

Of course, the rightwrong and "left" wingnuts are already out in droves on the blogs either faulting Kerry's proposal (rightwrong wingnuts), or whining that it's coming from John Kerry instead of their current fave ("left" wingnuts). Ah well, same as it ever was, I guess.

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Iraq on the Record: The Bush Administration's public statements on Iraq
The Bush Administration's
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