- The Washington Times - Monday, July 23, 2007

Although the Senate’s refusal on Wednesday to permit the Democratic leadership to attach a surrender timeline to the defense authorization is welcome news, congressional Democrats remain convinced that opposing the war is a politically popular position, and they plan to milk defeatism for all it’s worth. That’s why Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Kerry decided to pick a fight with the Bush administration over a senior Pentagon official’s commonsense warning that “premature and public discussion” about withdrawing from Iraq would raise fears that Washington will abandon that country and would exacerbate sectarian tensions there.

The failure of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s latest attempt to damage the war effort gives our soldiers and diplomats in essence a two-month reprieve until Gen. David Petraeus delivers his much-awaited report on the situation. But we shouldn’t delude ourselves into thinking that things will change dramatically one way or the other in the next few months: While passage of an oil-revenue-allocation compromise law by the Iraqi Parliament would be a most welcome development, it will do little to affect the military situation in the short run. To defeat al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations operating in Iraq will require a counterinsurgency campaign lasting years into the future. The fact is that the United States has a national security interest in defeating the Islamist terror organizations based in Iraq and it will continue to exist irrespective of what the Iraqi government is doing to fine-tune de-Ba’athification policies, share oil revenues or promote national reconciliation — desirable as all of these things are.

One of the more heartening developments has been the willingness of persons not associated with the Bush administration or the Republican Party to speak candidly about the disastrous humanitarian consequences of prematurely withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. Last week, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged American policy-makers to exercise “great caution” in considering any rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces. “It is not my place to inject myself into this discussion talking place between the American people, government and Congress,” Mr. Ban said. “But I’d like to tell you that a great caution should be taken for the sake of the Iraqi people…Any abrupt withdrawal or decision may lead to a further deterioration.”

Here’s what Joost Hilterman, an analyst with the liberal-leaning International Crisis Group, said about the same subject: “I hated the Iraq war, [but] a hasty withdrawal would be dangerous for Iraq, for the region and for U.S. interests.” After Sen. John McCain warned a few months ago that a U.S. pullout from Iraq would lead to genocide, Newsweek correspondents Christopher Dickey and John Barry wrote: “He could well be right. In the Middle East, aid workers, regional leaders, Iraqi officials and ordinary civilians agree that if Americans leave quickly, Iraq’s disastrous condition could be made much worse. They warn of a massive flood of refugees heading for the borders, of massacres as Sunnis and Shi’ites cross paths, of a proxy war funded by Iran and Saudi Arabia within Iraq itself.”

Yet Mrs. Clinton is apparently so invested in defeat that she has been trying to browbeat the Defense Department into publicly discussing contingency plans for withdrawing from Iraq. After she sent a letter on the subject to DoD, Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman responded by warning bluntly that premature discussion of withdrawal “reinforces enemy propaganda” that the United States will abandon our allies in Iraq — as we previously did in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Kerry responded by introducing legislation requiring a Pentagon briefing on an Iraq pullout — in other words advertising U.S. willingness to abandon another ally. For the record, here’s the way Osama bin Laden characterized Mrs. Clinton’s husband’s ignominious withdrawal from Somalia in an October 2001 interview with CNN: “America exited dragging its tails in failure, defeat, and ruin, caring for nothing. America left faster than anyone expected.” Now, Mrs. Clinton is apparently hoping to stage a repeat performance in Iraq.

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