Column: Bush Must Get Serious Over Iraq Withdrawal

This story was written by Sean Reed, Rocky Mountain Collegian


Apparently, it's not just the presidential candidateswho are pandering to voters this election season.

On Friday, President Bush released a statement announcing an agreement between the United Statesand Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal Al-Maliki to "a general timeline" for the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq.

For years now, Bush has resisted calls from Democrats and some Republican groups for a pullout timeline citing fragile progress and the dangers of leaving prematurely.

Because of his previous attitude, many in the media, including the usually accurate New York Times, are calling this move a "shift" in Bush Iraq policy, but, in reality, it is nothing more than continuation of previous policy in a more election season-friendly frame.

Now, to give Bush credit, the fact that he is willing to even entertain considering a troop withdrawal is a huge step in the right direction. But the problem is, this move is all rhetoric and no action.

While the White House is telling the nation it is willing to "allow for the agreements now under negotiation to include a general time horizon for meeting aspirational goals such as the further reduction of U.S. combat forces from Iraq," there has been no information released on what the "time horizon" in question will look like.

In addition, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe made clear the primary focus of any timeline will be to hand over security duties to Iraqi forces, and not necessarily to get U.S. soldiers out of Iraq.

The problem here, of course, is that without the added pressure of a deadline for troop withdrawal, the result of handing over new duties to Iraqi forces is likely to end in failure as it did in the past.

I like to think of it in terms of teaching a child to ride a bicycle. At first, you need to stand beside your child to steady the bars. But eventually, you have to step back and let them balance for themselves.

Is your kid going to fall? Sure. But they're also going to learn from that fall. The same is true of the Iraqi forces.

Now this isn't to say the United Statesshould pull out all or even some troops immediately.

A poor execution of this plot isn't going to end in skinned knees. If we do it wrong, people will die and the country could plunge back into chaos and end up in an even worse state then when it was under the helm of Saddam Hussein. Nobody wants this.

However, we need to send a strong message to Iraqis that we cannot and will not take care of their country forever. To do this, it will require more than the creation of a fictitious timeline without any actual dates.

It will require negotiations with hard deadlines and a true commitment to bringing our troops home.

The fact of the matter is, many Iraqis don't even want us there anymore.

According to the New York Times, a member of the Iraqi Prime Minister's own Dawa Party went on the record saying the core focus for Iraq in these talks was the withdrawal of foreign forces.

"I don't know what the American side thinks, but we consider it the core of the subject," he said.

Given the necessity of removing American troops to the autonomy of Iraq and public sentiment of both the American and Iraqi people, it's time to talk about withdrawal deadlines. Bush's current "plan" is nothing more than wide-scale pandering for his Republican counterparts in the fall. It's high time he actually got serious about policy in Iraq.
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