Monday, October 10, 2005

Carl Levin: Disappointment and Encouragement

Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) does not agree with me.  He thinks that the US should keep the troops in Iraq, at least through 2006.  That is disappointing.  However, he does make some interesting and encouraging points in his recent WaPo editorial.
Our military leaders have long told us that there can be no purely military solution in Iraq and that a genuine, broad-based political settlement among the Iraqis is essential for success and for the defeat of the insurgency.

There is, however, one point on which leaders of the three main groups in Iraq agree: None of the Iraqi groups wants U.S. troops to leave precipitately. The Shiites want us to stay until Iraqi security forces are strong enough to deal with the insurgency on their own. The Kurds want us to remain for the impending future. And the Sunni Arab leaders want us to stay as a deterrent to those who might seek revenge against them for the actions of Saddam Hussein.

We must use that leverage -- the possibility of an American withdrawal -- to achieve the broad-based political settlement that is essential for defeating the insurgency.

I believe that if the Iraqis fail to reach a political solution by the end of the year we must consider a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. forces. This does not mean setting a date now for departure. It simply means conveying clearly and forcefully to Iraqis that the presence of our forces is not indefinite and that our staying there requires them to come together politically, since Iraqi unity offers the only hope of defeating the insurgency.
Mr. Levin goes on to point out that the current Administration is sending the opposite message, by insisting that the troop will stay as long as they are needed.  Good point.  I would say that if we have any leverage at all, we should use it.