Iraq

You Can't Get Out If You Don't Dive In

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Last night President Bush explained why removing U.S. troops from Iraq would mean keeping them there and why sending more troops is the only way to achieve a withdrawal:

Many are concerned that the Iraqis are becoming too dependent on the United States, and therefore, our policy should focus on protecting Iraq's borders and hunting down al Qaeda. Their solution is to scale back America's efforts in Baghdad—or announce the phased withdrawal of our combat forces. We carefully considered these proposals. And we concluded that to step back now would force a collapse of the Iraqi government, tear the country apart, and result in mass killings on an unimaginable scale. Such a scenario would result in our troops being forced to stay in Iraq even longer, and confront an enemy that is even more lethal. If we increase our support at this crucial moment, and help the Iraqis break the current cycle of violence, we can hasten the day our troops begin coming home.

This is a tough sell, and not just because an extra 20,000 troops are unlikely to be the difference between war and peace in Iraq. If withdrawal is unthinkable, what will concentrate the minds of Iraq's leaders, who are expected any year now to maintain law and order on their own? "If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises," Bush warned, "it will lose the support of the American people." Since most of the American people think invading Iraq was a mistake and want to get out as expeditiously as possible, I'm not sure the Iraqi government has their support to lose. Presumably Bush means the Iraqi government would lose the support of the American government. But how would that loss of support be manifested, since the Bush administration is committed to stay indefinitely, lest the Iraqi government collapse?

This was Bush's response when congressional leaders asked him why he thought the troop surge will succeed: "Because it has to." God help us.