1/29/09

Walk, Don't Run

Mark Lynch has a good post on the perceived Odierno/Obama tangle and what the President should do about it:
According to the Times, Gen. Ray Odierno said Wednesday that "it might take the rest of the year to determine exactly when United States forces could be drawn down significantly" while J.D. Crouch warned ominously that "they don’t want to alienate the military." The Obama administration should resist this inertia -- and the public challenge to his authority -- and stick to its stated goals of drawing down U.S. forces in Iraq.

Some of this is simply the press manufacturing conflict. Odierno's public comments are consistent with those of departing Amb. Ryan Crocker -- and less novel than the reporting might suggest. This was Odierno's position before the transition...
He adds that the "'go slow' approach ignores the reality of the new Status of Forces Agreement and the impending referendum this summer." That is, the Status of Forces Agreement--which has passed the Iraqi Parliament, but now must go before the public in a national referendum--states that US forces will completely withdraw by the end of 2011. Thus, Lynch argues that playing wait-a-year-and-see "could ironically make the 'rush for the exits' that everyone wants to avoid more rather than less likely... ."

The President shouldn't consider the campaign promise of a 16 month timetable for withdrawal in his decision making at all, but, as General Odierno himself says, having troops in Iraq after 2011 is out of the question. Listening to your generals is undoubtedly important--would that the Bush Administration had listened to the General Shinseki in the run-up to the war. Beginning to draw troops down now, however, may ultimately lead to a more responsible withdrawal and therefore a more sustainable Iraq.

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