Monday, February 11, 2008

A Surge of Success?

The NY Times reports today that defense secratary Robert Gates has approved a "pause" in troop withdrawal from Iraq. To summarize, after meeting with General Petraeus, Secretary Gates supports the decision to pause the draw down while commanders assess if violence can continue to be suppressed with troops reduced to pre-surge levels. A report on post-surge troop levels will be presented to the president in the early spring. The full NY Times Report can be found here.

This immediately had ramifications on the campaign trail with Senators Clinton and Obama voicing their disagreement and reiterating their individual commitments to bringing troops home beginning in the first year of their respective administrations.

For the record, at the time of the invasion of Iraq, I was unsure about the need for us to get involved there militarily. I doubted the evidence presented by the administration, but at the same time so soon after 9/11, I felt that trusting the president was in the best interest of the country, "surely, they must know something we don't."

Then it turns out they didn't know something we didn't. They thought they knew things they didn't. I don't think it's worth wasting the screen space to explain all of the pitfalls and nonsense that went on in the years of the war before General Petraeus took command. For those interested in the failures of President Bush and Donal Rumsfeld buy this. What matters is where we are now. I was certain, like many others that the surge would not, could not work, I will admit I was proven wrong.

But the point must be, so what? We are where we are now. Relatively low levels of violence because of the troop surge has led to a relative calm. (I feel it necessary to post a side-note: This link is a youtube video of the venerable Martha Raddatz on Bill Maher's show giving her point of view on the surge) However, the political reconciliation and stabilization are far from complete.

Is it appropriate for the Democrats to be calling for an immediate withdrawal or "redeployment" out of Iraq? Is Senator McCain reasonable when he says we can stay in Iraq for 100 years and the American people won't care if our troops are safe? All I can say is we broke Iraq, and now to some extent we bought it. The Iraqi government is clearly not ready to lead on their own, and certainly could not provide security to its people. While I don't think I'd be OK with our troops their indefinitely, no matter how safe they are, I think it is reasonable to think we will need to be there in a peace-keeping capacity anywhere from 5 to 10 years. As the government builds a democratic structure and as the army and police begin to see past their sectarian differences we will see the Iraqi people taking advantage of their oil wealth and begin rebuilding their country. Patience is required. It was fair to criticize a poorly working plan, and it is fair to forever hold President Bush accountable for a misguided mission. But the last thing America needs or wants is a withdrawal that only leads to more chaos and death in the Middle East. The right wingers that blindly followed President Bush into his foolish crusade cost young Americans their lives. Let's not let left wingers with their blinding desire to leave something that they see as unjust cost the Iraqi people more.

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