I sat through the president’s address on Iraq last night as well as the commentary that both followed and preceded it. The commentary was of surprisingly high quality with Christopher Matthews making a reasoned appeal to the public to see that Petraeus believes his role as commander in Iraq to be that of executor of national policy, not the originator of national policy. This is a realistic view of the proper role of the military. People who want Petraeus to demand change in national policy should think that over carefully. Keith Olberman seemed unhappy with such reasoning. His commentary lately has degenerated into demagoguery. He is more and more like O’Reilly, the man who made him rich and who he professes to despise.
After listening to the president I think that those in Congress and among the presidential candidates who oppose the Jacobin neocon view of America’s destiny in the Middle East should adopt something like the following program:
– There should be no treaty, agreement, SOFA or any other instrument that commits the United States to the defense of Iraq. The Congress should insist on its prerogative in such matters. Agreements of that kind would preclude a complete American withdrawal from Iraq.
– There should be no permanent American bases of any kind in Iraq. The president’s obduracy in insisting on what can only be seen as a commitment to a permanent American presence makes the public adoption of a policy of "no bases" inevitable. Permanent bases in Iraq will mean conventional or counterinsurgency war involving the US so long as the bases are there.
– Congress should insist that the "surge" force be completely withdrawn on the basis that Petraeus recommended and that the March, 2008 review should produce a schedule of withdrawal that will remove all US combat forces from Iraq by the mid-term election of 2010 with the following exception.
– Congress and the candidates should have in mind that if there remains any relationship to an Iraqi state after 2010, that relationship may require an ongoing training commitment to the forces of that government. Such a force of trainers will inevitably have to be fed, housed, transported, provided medical support and protected. A commitment of that kind would require a continuing presence for a few years, but the end point should be fixed. For the length of its existence such a presence might well consist of 30,000 people. On the other hand, if there is no continuing relationship, than all forces should be withdrawn by November, 2010.
– None of this should be seen as precluding a continuing effort at counter-terrorist operations or support of friendly elements in Iraq from outside Iraq.
– This program of withdrawal should be matched with a determined, aggressive diplomatic effort intended to reduce the "temperature" in the Middle East. (See my article "Toward a Concert of the Middle East."
There wil be tose who will say that having such a program is futile because of Bus.Cheney. I disagree. Without a program you have no unified goal and path.
Those who submit comments which are merely anti-Ameican or naively pacifist will have them deleted. pl