Does the Bush Administration Have An Exit Strategy For Iraq?:
The Agence France-Presse seems to think so. Closer to home, Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post takes a link-rich look at the story.
PierreM (mail):
The Pentagon has had plans for major troop reductions in the pipeline since early November (i.e., before the recent nonsense in the Congress)

See 11.28.2005 10:20pm
Humble Law Student:
Oh no, you didn't broach that subject did you?
11.29.2005 12:05am
MacStansbury (mail) (www):
the entire problem with announcing our military intentions is that you DON'T ANNOUNCE YOUR MILITARY INTENTIONS.

there was an exit strategy from Iraq in 1992, for goodness sakes. but, don't let the facts get in the way of a good rant, people. it's much more fun to complain loudly about something that you can't talk about, one way or the other.
11.29.2005 1:53am
Justice Fuller:
11.29.2005 1:54am
MacStansbury (www):
if that was directed my way, then let me tell you, the Military has a military strategy. it works with the political strategy of the Administration.

the problem for the Administration is, it can't talk about the future - that would hurt the Military's strategy. the opponents of the Administration (not the enemy combatants, in this case Democrats), know this. they can blindly carry on with what they KNOW the Administration can't confirm or deny.
11.29.2005 2:00am
Justice Fuller:

Thanks for explaining what you meant. If there is a military strategy, though, then what is it?
11.29.2005 2:10am
Bob Bobstein (mail):

That can be an absolute principle in a military dictatorship; but in a democracy, the government must account for its actions to the people. So, the government cannot just make the decision to go to war, then continue indefinitely without any general standards for determining when the war is over. See here for an (unfortunately intemperate) elaboration of this point.

PierreM: The Pentagon has had plans for major troop reductions in the pipeline since early November

Your link doesn't work for me. Not everyone agrees, though (or see here): "military sources told Time that as recently as August 2005, a senior military official requested more troops but got turned down flat."
11.29.2005 8:48am
Froomkin links to Seymour Hersh's New Yorker article, which in turn has a lot of details about possible troop reduction plans.

The gist is that such plans would be conditional and event-based, not according to a set schedule. They would also not represent a reduction in American military activity. Rather, the idea would be to gradually replace ground activity with air activity, possibly targeted by Iraqi units (possibly with the aid of American Special Forces). The article also includes an extended discussion of various objections or reservations with respect to this plan.
11.29.2005 9:25am
Solon (mail) (www):
I believe AFP has taken their piece from this press release by the White House.
11.29.2005 9:47am
JGUNS (mail):
Bush has enunciated their strategy very clearly for at least a few years now. If it is news to people, then that must be because they only listen to the MSM. As we help Iraqi's stand up, we will stand down. This was the strategy Bush enunciated in August of 2003, September of 2003, May of 2004, and many other times. It was the strategy outlined in this May 2004 "Fact Sheet: The Transition to Iraqi Self-Government".
11.29.2005 9:58am
As far as I can tell, the White House correctly notes that Biden and the Senate are discussing the same basic strategy as the White House. The notable difference between what Biden and the Senate are calling for and what the White House is actually doing seems to be that the White House is not providing much in the way of forward-looking criteria for success--such as detailed benchmarks or provisional schedules--but rather is retrospectively identifying its claimed achievements.
11.29.2005 9:59am
JosephSlater (mail):
Knowing full well that this idea will be considered cynical, partisan, not-supporting-the-troops, etc., it seems pretty obvious what the administration's policy is: declare victory (or at least the foundations of victory) and start withdrawing enough troops before the 2006 elections to try to neutralize this as a campaign issue.

The Repubs. will counter the war-critic view that we should start withdrawing because we've screwed things up considerably and our continuing presence is counterproductive with the much happier view that we should start withdrawing because a democratically elected government is in place and the Iraqi forces are ready to stand up. This is an appealing political strategy because the Repubs. would enter the 2006 elections with fewer Americans being killed, and they can campaign on essentially having won the war. Of course the Repubs. will cross their fingers and hope that things don't go too horribly wrong in Iraq, at least not before the elections. But if it's only Iraqis being killed, it's not clear how much a chunk of the American electorate will care deeply.

If you think this is too cynical/partisan, I've got a $1 symbolic bet that says I'm right, although I honestly hope I'm not.
11.29.2005 10:15am

But shouldn't the war critics nonetheless be happy that the White House would be getting on board with a withdrawal plan, even if they would be doing so for the wrong reasons?
11.29.2005 10:29am
Seymour Hersh's New Yorker article

That should be revised to "Seymour 'I have no problem with lying to you - so what?' Hersh."
11.29.2005 10:56am
What I find most hilarious are the constant twitters of the anti-war people and MSM (same thing, really) that a withdrawal will be done for purposes of the 2006 election. We heard the same pablum from the anti-war people and MSM before the 2004 election - you know, when President Bush was actually on the ticket - and it turned out to be completely false. Same is obviously the case for the 2006 election.
11.29.2005 11:01am

I support being a critical consumer of news. But regardless of what you may feel about Hersh in general, he often has good sources, and the article in question is very well-sourced with respect to the reduction plans (including many named sources).
11.29.2005 11:07am
markm (mail):
It seems to me that Bush's exit strategy has been clear enough all along - we leave when Iraq has a functioning democracy with enough trained cops and soldiers to keep it. In other words, when we won't have to come back a third time. This just doesn't seem to be soon enough for some people. It doesn't help that the MSM is slanting it's reporting to obscure the progress towards the goal.

So what else are the Democrats suggesting? That we "won" so we can go home now? We did that once. We also did it in Europe once after WWI, then we had to come back and fight a much nastier war later. So we had troops in Europe hunting down recalcitrant Nazis for years after the war was won, and still have some troops there. (I think the reason for that is long past.)
11.29.2005 11:34am

I think the problem for many people is not the broad goals you outline, but the lack of supporting detail. How exactly are we measuring progress towards those goals, and what exactly will count as completion of those goals? How exactly do we intend to accomplish those goals? What are the estimated costs? What is the estimated timetable? And so on.
11.29.2005 11:55am
Bob Bobstein (mail):
Medis has it right. From the Froomkin article linked in the post, citing LAT: Repub Sens Lugar and Warner call for more specific communications from the White House. Warner calls for "fireside chats."

It's unfortunate that we happen to be living in such partisan times. (Why is that, anyway? Is it the Internets' fault? Bill Clinton? Richard Mellon Scaife?) Otherwise, people could make specific suggestions for change without all the defensiveness.

Also, "exit strategy" can be, as MacStansbury suggests, a counterproductive term if it means giving a roadmap to our adversaries as to how we're going to get out. But, if it means specifying our goals for Iraqi self-government, then it need not be such a bad thing.
11.29.2005 12:47pm
Hunter McDaniel (mail):
I don't want to hear about our "exit strategy", only about our "victory strategy". But even there, I'm not looking for all the secret details, only some reassurance that those in charge know what the hell they're doing. We don't really want Al Qaeda to see every card in our hand.
11.29.2005 1:01pm
JosephSlater (mail):

There are two kinds of war critics. The folks that thought the war was a mistake AND that getting out now is a better option for Iraq and the region than staying in. For those folks, getting out relatively soon would be a reason to be happy, although my guess is they will be less pleased when they see the Repubs. spin this politically as a "see, we were right, we won, you Dems. are still traitorous cowards."

Second, however, one could rationally have opposed the war but now think that our presence in significant numbers for a significant amount of time is the best way to try to get a better future for Iraq -- the "you broke it, you bought it" school. For those folks, a premature withdrawal would not be a happy outcome.

The problem is that predictions -- even among people of good faith -- vary greatly about how much progress is being made, and therefore it's hard to really know what the effects would be of a significant pullout in, say, the next 6-8 months.


Even ignoring whiny words such as "pablum" and "twitters," there's not much to your argument. The majority of predictions of lower troop levels before the 2004 elections that I heard were based on wildly inaccurate Bush admin. predictions about how easy it would be to win the war (remember "major combat operations are over," "mission accomplished," "more like 5 weeks than 5 months," "they'll greet us with flowers," and etc.?)

Also, blaming the "MSM" is lame. First, the MSM was entirely behind the war during the run-up to it and its initial prosecution and even the NYT still runs pro-Bush/war op eds regularly. Second, at some point the right has to admit that Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and other papers with a conservative bent, and the vast majority of talk radio are in fact both "media" and "mainstream."

But more importantly, you are really, really kidding yourself if you think that the reason that recent polls show that (i) a majority of Americans now oppose the decision to go to war and (ii) a bigger majority oppose the way it's being prosecuted is all the fault of -- what, wildly biased reporting at CNN?
11.29.2005 1:36pm
Unnamed Co-Conspirator:
Froomkin, Hersh et al. have an agenda and the facts are inconvenient to that agenda. The White House's criterion for withdrawal from Iraq has been entirely consistent and very clear for quite a long time now: withrdaw the troops when Iraq can provide for its own security. The strategy has changed at times, which should be considered evidence not of incompetence or lack of planning, although perhaps there was some of each, but as evidence that the White House is able to react to the facts as they exist, even if those facts are shamefully underreported.

It is sadly predictable that Froomkin, Hersh and much of the rest of the mainstream media have all but ignored the facts in Iraq, all the more inexcusable because those facts are neatly summarized periodically by the Brookings Institution, hardly a shill for the administration. A few columnists seem to have figured this out, Max Boot, being one, Fareed Zakaria being another. Zakaria astutely points out that the recent calls for withdrawal of the troops has nothing to do with any events occurring in Iraq and everything to do with a perceived vulnerability of a Republican president. Far from advancing the cause of the mission's success, such hysteria from Democrats, primarily, and also some Republicans, tends to hamper progress in Iraq by giving indications to the terrorists that their bloody efforts are accomplishing their primary objective, which is, of course, the erosion of political will in Washington, D.C. to the point that the the US will remove the necessary support for the Arab middle east's democratic experiment. Any objective examination of the contrast between the facts as compiled by independent observers such as the Brookings Institution, and the facts as conveyed to the public by politically interested observers such as Froomkin and Hersh, leads to the conclusion that Froomkin, Hersh et al. prefer that Arabs in the middle east suffer under despotism, instead of having an opportunity for humane self government. Claims of support for one outcome over another must give way to a contrary but logical conclusion of the course one advocates -- in other words, a person's favoring the withdrawal of US support from Iraq exposes as a LIE that person's self-description as a "liberal" or professed support for the advance of liberal, democratic self-government.

Most of the mainstream media, Froomkin and Hersh included, were advocating surrender even before the fight started. The collective memory of the mainstream media, and, necessarily, that of the Democrat robots serving the mainstream media, seems to be wiped clean every so often, just to ensure that useful information will not be retained, particularly that information useful to those who would call them out for their fecklessness.

The near complete lack of news coverage regarding the fact of progress in Iraq is convenient for people like Froomkin, Hersh, and most of the Democrats in Congress (with a few very notable and honorable exceptions, including Joe Lieberman) whose "strategy" for the problem, universally recognized in the wake of 9/11, of the nexus between rogue states, dangerous weapons, and international terrorism, was . . . . nothing, inaction, handwringing, futile pleas to unfriendly dictators to turn terrorists over for prosecution. Having faith that the combined efforts of the Press and the Democrat party will succeed in undermining any chance of the Iraq mission's success, they now point to the misreported "failure" of the mission in Iraq as "proof" that they were right. If they are wrong about Iraq, as they have been wrong about EVERYTHING IMPORTANT since September 11, 2001*, will they do the honorable thing and admit that they are undeserving of the public trust, or will they pretend that their drive to cause mission failure, at the cost of many lives, was just them "doing their job?" If it's the latter, the question the rest of us should ask is: For whom are they working?

*Everything important: Afghanistan, predicted to be a quagmire, was not, as the Taliban was decisively defeated in a matter of months; Afghanistan, predicted to be incapable of self-government, is now a fledgling democracy, likely to succeed as such as long as the US keeps its eye on the ball; Iraqis, presumably because they are mostly Arab and mostly Muslim, were written off as incapable of democratic self-government, yet in the two elections they've had in 2005, Iraqis have turned out to vote in proportions that should shame Americans, who face merely bad weather or inconvenient lines or traffic, rather than bombs and bullets.
11.29.2005 2:30pm
Unnamed Co-Conspirator:
The Agence France-Presse story notes that the White House "[argued] that a troop pullout blueprint unveiled this past week by a Democratic senator [Biden] was "remarkably similar" to its own."*

*Plazarizin' Joe Biden should take note of the use of quotes and brackets and the credit given to the source of the quote.
11.29.2005 2:45pm
Bob Bobstein (mail):
Quick reactions to Unnamed Co-con: Dems are criticizing, and the media is reporting, the administration's misuse of intelligence way late in the game (ie, after the public soured on the administration b/c of Libby and Katrina). UCC is right that some calling for withdrawal are reacting to polls; but if Biden is really just copying the White House... and the White House is suddenly talking up Iraqi capabilities... doesn't that mean that the WH is reacting to those same political realities?

Republicans are calling for Bush to improve communication about progress in Iraq (Did you read the Froomkin article?). This could be taken as a criticism of the media, but also of the administration's reluctance to offer more than occasional generalities about our mission.

Hersch does not "ignore facts" in his article; rather, he reports on the military planning for the next phase of the war. (Did you read the Hersch article?).

Also, which Dems talked about Afghanistan as a quagmire? Any prominent elected leaders? I thought there was pretty broad support for that. Also, I recall some (well, off top of my head, only liberal-leaning cartoonist Tom Toles) criticizing the administration for _abandoning_ the budding democracy in Afg in order to turn to Iraq, not for saying that there could be no good gov't there. Who are you thinking of when you say Dems said it was impossible? Any prominent elected leaders?
11.29.2005 3:02pm

Let's assume everything you say about the Democrats and the "mainstream media" is true. Nonetheless, one fact is that the public's support for the war has been rapidly dropping lately. Another fact is that we live in a democracy, and if the public ends up wanting us out of Iraq sooner rather than later, eventually they will get what they want.

So, if President Bush wants us to remain in Iraq on his own terms, he has to start doing a better job of communicating with the public ... which is precisely the message being sent by members of his own party. And complaining about the Democrats and the "mainstream media" clearly isn't going to be enough to satisfy the public.
11.29.2005 3:43pm
Unnamed Co-Conspirator:
Medis, if the President gives a speech clearly describing the facts as they exist, but the New York Times and CBS News are still covering Cindy Sheahan, Abu Ghraib and the 2000th US military death in the Iraq (a media lie, to the extent it's represented as 2000 deaths by enemy action), has the President failed to communicate? Sure, the President could do better, but the primary failure is not his. The primary failure is that of the mainstream media, which behaves as an advocate for a particular political agenda rather than a seeker and publisher of the truth. News reporting is given second billing to punditry or punditry disguised as quasi-reporting (the designation "news analysis" should be a big red flag that says "BS alert"). There is good reporting being done regarding Iraq, but the information it reveals doesn't find its way to most of the public, because the brief summaries read by CNN bimbos (like the moron who described the rioting French "youths" as African-American) or blow-dried MSM empty suits on the evening news generally includes only those facts that comprise the attnetion-grabbing bad news.

Bob, most of the quagmire comments regarding Afghanistan came from the media, rather than from elected leaders. There was broad support among the public and elected leaders for getting rid of the Taliban, in spite of irresponsible reporting (if you can call it that) by much of the mainstream media. So, no, the elected Democrat leaders weren't wrong about everything important. In fact, they were right about a lot of things, including the importance of removing Saddam Hussein. Somehow, though, they seem to be able to remember only that they were right, but not the position they took.

So, sure, I'll accept the correction that the failure to get the story right in Afghanistan belongs to the mainstream media, not to Dem politicians. The mainstream media's burying (relatively) of the story of Afghan democracy is shameful, but you won't hear that from mainstream media outlets. The media spends more effort on reporting on reporters than it does reporting actual news. Ted Koppel's retirement was a story worth the attention it received?

The mainstream media has similarly buried the story of progress in Iraq. The excuse given is that expected events, or normal progress isn't "news," whereas war deaths and terrorists attacks are. But given the coverage, the terrorists attacks and war deaths are now the events expected by the general public, whereas progress toward a stable, secure Iraqi democracy is a surprise. Still, the surprising story of Iraqi democratization continues to be underreported. Undoubtedly, the parliamentary elections next month will be underreported as well, except perhaps as background information for the "story" of the irresponsibility of Democrats willing to sacrifice Iraqi and American lives for the sake of doing political damage to the President, and Republican incumbents willing to do the same thing to avoid swimming against the tide of public opinion in an election year. The gutless Republicans who can't manage to send a clear message to Iraq a month before the parliamentary elections are worse, in a way, than the opportunistic Democrats. They're disloyal to the nation, their President and their party, whereas the Democrats can be said to be disloyal only to the nation.

Public opinion is influencing politics, and yes, that's democracy, but public opinion is being influenced by a mainstream media that is dishonest and that is abusing its protections and privileges in an effort to favor a particular political agenda.

How to fix it? Getting rid of the rule of NYTimes v. Sullivan would be a good start. Making sure that the government does not use the excuse of campaign finance reform to regulate bloggers, which are the 21st century equivalent of the 18th century press -- the press envisioned by the framers when the First Amendment was ratified, is essential. Technological developments hold out the possibility that the media oligopoly that developed after WWII will be an aberration, with the now not-believable CBS News and increasingly untrustworthy New York Times (among others) taking their proper places next to, not above, freelance reporters like Michael Yon, and blogs like VC, PowerLine, etc.
11.29.2005 5:44pm

Again, though, even assuming you are right about where the "primary failure" lies, that doesn't change the fact that the "failure" (in the sense that public support for the war is diminishing) is actually occurring. And your proposed "fixes" are unlikely to change things much in the short term.

So, unless one is completely fatalistic about all this, then it makes sense for the President to concentrate on what he can actually control (namely, his own conduct, and the conduct of others in his Administration), even if he shares your belief that this "failure" is mostly someone else's fault (the Democrats, the "mainstream media," certain Republicans, etc.).

And I noticed that while you have very detailed things to say about what other people are doing wrong, you didn't elaborate on what the President "could do better." But practically speaking, given your own analysis, the President can only hope to change things in the short term by actually doing better. So, any suggestions for him?
11.29.2005 6:44pm