June 23, 2006

Cutting and running, eventually

from - RSA

Eventually the U.S. will pull out of Iraq, and all the Republicans who are now accusing Democrats of favoring a "cut and run" strategy will have to perform an awkward flip-flop, saying that while it would have been cowardly to withdraw earlier, it's the honorable thing to do at whatever point we've reached.

Given the Bush administration's history, we have to think that American political considerations (rather than the reality in Iraq) will dominate the decision to withdraw from Iraq, if it happens before Bush leaves office. What are the possibilities for how the withdrawal plays out?

  1. Political pressure builds until Bush feels he has no choice but to start drawing down troops. He takes advantage of some minor piece of good news from Iraq and makes an unexpected announcement.

  2. Political pressure builds until Bush feels he has no choice but to start drawing down troops. He makes an unexpected announcement that commanders on the ground think withdrawal is appropriate.

  3. Bush sets up a set of political, social, and security conditions. As Iraq meets these conditions, troops are withdrawn.

Now, the last option is obviously something that a responsible administration would go for. I think that the first two are much more likely, however. It took me some time to come up with an explanation for why Bush seems unwilling to be explicit about what needs to happen in Iraq for us to leave. I think it's because until that happens, he's stuck saying that we're making incremental progress. If we had conditions against which we could measure progress, it would be much harder to put a happy face on our situation, which might go on for months or years. That would have bad political ramifications, which, after all, are Bush's main concern.


Posted by RSA at June 23, 2006 12:36 PM
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