Skip to comments.Don't Get Fooled Again
Posted on 09/20/2007 4:56:17 PM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
President Bush has endorsed General David Petraeus's recommendation to begin withdrawing 30,000 U.S. troops from Iraq by next summer. Yet the drawdown would only restore troop levels to where they were before the surge began in January 2007.
In the final months of 2006, debate in Washington centered on how fast a reduction from pre-surge levels could occur. The Iraq Study Group recommended that approximately half of the 130,000 troops then in Iraq be withdrawn by early 2008. In marked contrast to that and similar proposals, President Bush is now endorsing a step that would mean a return to the status quo of late 2006. That is something less than a dramatic step.
Even Bush's proposal for a modest withdrawal is conditioned on a continued improvement in Iraq's security environment. Gen. Petraeus and other supporters of the surge contend that it has succeeded in dampening the violence in certain areas of the country (most notably some areas of Baghdad and in Anbar province).
But the military's own statistics, as cited by Petraeus, indicate that the level of violence in the country as a whole has merely dropped to the "normal" levels of spring 2006, when Iraq was hardly a peaceful place. And independent estimates from the Associated Press and other sources dispute the military's figures, contending that the drop in violence is much more limited. In any case, it is a leap of faith to assume that any decrease in attacks and killings would persist if the troops deployed during the surge were withdrawn.
We have heard Bush administration officials express optimism for a reduction in the U.S. military presence many, many times before. Indeed, the Pentagon's original plan envisioned — quite astonishingly — having no more than 50,000 to 60,000, and perhaps as few as 30,000 troops remaining in Iraq by the end of 2003.
Periodically thereafter, U.S. officials indicated that a partial withdrawal of troops was likely in the not-too-distant future. In December 2005, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld informed reporters that adjustments "will reduce forces in Iraq by the spring of 2006 below the current high of 160,000 during the [Iraqi] election period to below the 138,000 baseline that had existed before the most recent elections."
Six months later, Gen. George Casey, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq stated: "I am confident that we will be able to continue to take reductions over the course of this year."
But the promises of troop drawdowns were always set months into the future — and the future never seemed to arrive. That alone ought to make us skeptical about a new prediction that cuts may occur by next summer. And as with the previous enticements, this latest initiative is predicated on improvements in Iraq's security environment. For almost four years, President Bush has been telling us that "as the Iraqi security forces stand up, we will be able to stand down."
The problem with such a prerequisite is that the Iraqi security forces have never been able to stand on their own. Indeed, those forces are so riven with the sectarian divisions that afflict overall Iraqi society that it is misleading even to regard them as a unified entity. A report issued just last week by a panel of retired U.S. military officers concluded that the Iraqi army would not be able to operate effectively on its own in the next twelve to 18 months, and that the national police force was so heavily infiltrated by sectarian militias that it should be disbanded.
The brutal truth is that if the drawdown of American troops is contingent on the emergence of a peaceful security environment in Iraq and the development of an effective, united Iraqi security force, we will not be able to implement even a partial withdrawal in the foreseeable future. The Petraeus-Bush goal of a cut in forces by next summer is merely the latest in a depressing series of false hopes held out to the American people.
This article appeared in National Interest on September 17, 2007.
Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, is the author of seven books on international affairs. He is also the author of the study, "Escaping the Trap: Why the United States Must Leave Iraq" (February 2007).
What say you?
I’d rather WIN! I know the numbers - and I’m not fooled.
We’re in Iraq for better or worse. Best be there to win!
And who has been holding out those "false hopes" to the American people? Certainly not GWB. He has been amazingly consistent in saying that this as not a short endeavor and that it would extend well beyond his presidency. It is clear in the transcripts of every speech. Show me one speech where GWB held out a false hope.
Just think, we match force with level of violence. Surge worked, brought it back down, so we de-surge. Violence level is still at 2006 levels, so why think we could withdraw more? The ONLY people planting false seeds are the RATS and their rhetoric becomes a self-fulfilling prohpesy. They keep holding out hope for the bad guys that relief is just around the corner. The more violent they get, the louder the RAT howls. And that is all we hear in the press. Until the RATs STFU and let the Iraqi's know that our support will last beyond the next election, we'll make slow progress. And to leave Iraq, even partially, before we've settled the Syria and Iran questions is stupid. Flat out stupid - unless, of course, our troops would be in the fallout pattern.
There’s nothing in the street
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Is now the parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight
I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
Don’t get fooled again
Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss
Well, if Mr. Carpenters' brilliant military assessment is correct, than that is good news for Hillary, Harry and Nancy. They were getting pretty depressed.
Well, I think we should unleash the existing troops to do the things they are trained to do and use all the weapons we have.
No more fooling around. Take the mightiest army on this earth and let them win the war!
Sounds right to me. What a clustermuck.
I say: Wrong.
Retired generals report? Yes dem anti Bush hacks who used to be in the military— who cares?
The Iraqi military has in fact:
Defended three elections in 2005
Increased to more than 150k troops
Earned the rapidly growing confidence of the Iraqi public above their own local police forces
Been meet with a constant and relentless drive of new recruits who want to be part of the military.
Thanks for backstabbing our President and Troops CATO,
Its good that you are on our side.
Sorry, “tolerance”, I’m not buying it.
As another commenter said, GWB has been consistent in his message that the war will be long and hard. One problem is that the press is so mercurial regarding wars that one day they’re hot and the other cold.
Really, though, these “National Interest” guys seem pretty Buchananite.
I think it’s a bad idea to withdraw troops this summer and I agree with the article.
A drop is a drop, we'll take it. Besides, you do realize that in the month of July, approximately the same number of Americans died in Detroit (alone) as did in all of Iraq? I don't see anyone advocating a withdrawal from Michigan... ;-/