Count me pleased, if not thrilled, by the scuttlebutt that President Obama plans to withdraw all but 3,000 troops from Iraq by the end of the year.
It’s not confirmed yet, but if it happens it means that the White House is planning to go a lot farther than the military itself wants, and it reflects the great unwillingness of Iraq’s government about maintaining a US presence. Some US allies in Iraq, including the Kurds and some Sunni leaders, who are anxious about the power of the Shiite bloc under Prime Minister Maliki and about Iran’s influence, would also like a larger US role. Too bad for them.
Predictably, hawks are already squawking about the report that only 3,000 troops will remain, mostly as trainers for Iraq’s forces. (The actual missions aren’t defined, yet, and though some in the Pentagon would like to maintain forces for some sort of counterterrorism mission, it isn’t very likely that Baghdad wants American troops running around Iraq killing bad guys.) Here’s hawkish Howard McKeon, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee: “I was not overjoyed when I heard 3,000. I have heard from [US] commanders in the field that they think we shouldn’t go below 10 [thousand].” And Lindsey Graham, the Republican from South Carolina who is part of the Holy Trinity that includes John McCain and Joe Lieberman: “I think 10,000, when you add it up, is probably the bare minimum to do this.” Too bad for them, too.
Here’s an absurd exchange, on Fox News, between fantasy presidential candidate Herman Cain and that noted expert on defense, Greta van Susteren, in which van Susteren suggests that Obama is deliberately risking the lives of the 3,000 troops for political reasons. Cain, though vastly ignorant on foreign policy, is simply reflecting the GOP consensus that it’s important to portray Obama as weak and surrender-minded on every front:
VAN SUSTEREN: So I’m not going to ask you about that, so let me ask you about foreign policy since it was a little bit short on foreign policy. The big issue is whether or not the president is going to draw down to 3,000 troops in Iraq. What do you think about that idea if indeed that is the president’s plan?
CAIN: I believe that’s a bad idea, Greta. Once again, this president did not listen to the expanders on the ground. The commanders on the ground do not agree with that, just like the commanders on the ground didn’t agree with the drawdown in Afghanistan. That’s very scary in terms of foreign policy and our position in the world. So I don’t agree with it. Why? Because the commanders on the ground don’t agree with it. They believe it is too much, too fast. And I believe it is going to leave the 3,000 there vulnerable.
VAN SUSTEREN: That’s what I don’t understand. It seems to me—I really can’t believe the president isn’t listening to his commanders. I’m a little suspicious there are commanders telling him 3,000 is fine. Is there any reason why you think, if it is true, that he doesn’t have any commanders support him, why would he go ahead and do this, just sort of freelancing without consulting commanders?
CAIN: Two reasons, in my opinion. One, to carry out a campaign programs, and secondly to create a distraction. This president has nothing to talk about in terms of his record on the economy, zero new jobs created. They are trying to get away from that.
So if he—if next year he can say we have pulled out all of the troops out of Iraq, then that will give him something to brag about, along with the taking out of Osama bin Laden. The American people are not that stupid.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you really think he would do that? Risking 3,000 people that he would do it not because he thought it was good judgment and his advisers telling him, but simply for political reasons? You are saying he’s putting 3,000 people at risk and risking Iran moving into Iraq and destabilizing the whole region. To do it for political reasons is incredibly horrible. Do you really believe that—do you think that’s truly why he would do that?
CAIN: Greta, unfortunately, I do. Let me tell you why. If you look at the Afghanistan scenario, we had nearly 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. The surge was working. Why would he announce to the world that he’s going to reduce by the third over the next year and then send an e-mail to the enemy that this is how are going to draw down and this is when we are going to do it? It puts those that are left at greater risk. So he didn’t just do this once. He has now done it twice. I believe it is purely motivated for political reasons.