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June 28, 2007

After Lugar
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

With Dick Lugar, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, coming out this week against the President’s policies, we have a possible turning point.  Lugar is a serious foreign policy expert and well respected in the Senate.  He could provide cover for other Republicans to come along with him and start opposing the President’s policy.  Unfortunately, there’s a catch.  Lugar is still saying that he won’t vote for a timeline or benchmarks.  So this might all be smoke and mirrors

As I see it there are three scenarios.  The best case scenario is that this is just the beginning of an evolution and that by the time the Senate votes again on a draw down in forces he will come around and vote for the Democratic plan.  The worst case scenario is that he is just another Susan Collins.  He will oppose the President’s policies rhetorically, but he won’t actually take any real action to change them.  I’d be very disappointed if this was the case.  I’d like to think that as a Senator who has a long track record of taking these issues seriously and as someone who is not in any kind of political jeopardy, he wouldn’t just come out against the war for purely political purposes and then do nothing.

Another possibility and one that is reasonably likely, is that over the next month or two there will be a new Lugar plan for Iraq.  It will probably be something along the lines of cutting the American troop presence in Iraq down to 40,000-80,000 troops by 2009.  It seems to be what Lugar is saying

Our security interests call for a downsizing and redeployment of U.S. military forces to more sustainable positions. Numerous locations for temporary or permanent military bases have been suggested, including Kuwait or other nearby states, the Kurdish territories, or defensible locations in Iraq outside of urban areas. All of these options come with limitations. But some level of American military presence in Iraq would improve the odds that we could respond to terrorist threats, protect oil flows and help deter a regional war. It would also reassure friendly governments that the United States is committed to Middle East security. A redeployment would allow us to continue training Iraqi troops and delivering economic assistance, but it would end the U.S. attempt to interpose itself between Iraqi factions.

This new plan would probably get a lot of support from Republicans and conservative Democrats.  I have mixed feelings about it.  If you can get bipartisan agreement on removing 100,000 troops that is a really good thing and much better than where we are right now.  Ending the war is going to be a long-term, incremental political slog and this would be a major step in the right direction.  But still, I find the case for an almost complete redeployment over the next 12 months to be much more compelling.

Anyway, at the end I guess it’s all details unless you can get 67 votes because you aren’t going to change the President’s mind. 


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. . .the United States is committed to Middle East security. . ."

The Iraqis (the ones who haven't been killed or forced to flee), most of whom want the US out of their country, with most of those supporting armed attacks on Americans, might not agree with the idea that the US is committed to ME security. They might think that the US invaded Iraq just for profits and oil. But what do they know, compared to a US senator?

It's always rewarding reading of self-described military "experts."

When one blurts out, "But still, I find the case for an almost complete redeployment over the next 12 months to be much more compelling," one might notice that there could be a very real logistical and tactical problem inherent to the redeployment of 100,000 troops in the middle of endemic warfare. That's why most real experts, and not those who play one on the computer gizmo, would suggest that it would need to start now in order to get to where our resident "expert" would wish for 100,000 to go.

Perhaps had our "expert" spent his salad days in an infantry platoon instead of as an investment banker at Salomon Smith Barney he might prove a tad more careful analyst of what the rest of us would call the "military."

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