[Marxism] Preparing the retreat

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at videotron.ca
Wed Nov 8 22:53:18 MST 2006

The "new direction" for Iraq being touted by the Democrats is code for a
staged withdrawal similar to the one initiated by the new Nixon
administration in Vietnam between 1969-73. The bulk of US ground forces
ceased offensive operations and departed Vietnam in the earlier part of that

Republicans as well as Democrats appear ready to act on the pending
"recommendations" of the bipartisan Baker-Hamilton group which was set up
earlier this year by the Bush administration to lay the political groundwork
for a retreat. Rumsfeld's resignation indicates that the administration has
accepted the sweeping DP election victory as confirmation that there is no
longer any public support for continuing the occupation.

Significantly, Rumsfeld's replacement, Robert Gates, is a member of the
Baker group, and is closely tied to Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski,
the earliest and most prominent critics of the neocon adventure in Iraq.

Gates and Brzezinski have previously recommended that Iran and Syria be
enlisted to help facilitate the US withdrawal. The US will require that its
retreat is orderly and that it is leaving behind an Iraqi government which
is seen to be broadly representative and nonaligned. The Iranians and
Syrians will be counted upon to secure the respective cooperation of the
warring Shia and Sunni factions to this end.

Rumsfeld's Ouster
Transforms Iraq Debate

Gates, His Successor, Took
Different Tack in Gulf War;
A Role for Iran and Syria?
Baker Panel Seen as Crucial

Wall Street Journal
November 9, 2006

WASHINGTON -- The resignation yesterday of Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld, in the wake of the Democrats' decisive electoral victory, now
opens the door for the biggest change of U.S. policy in Iraq since American
troops got bogged down there three years ago.

After gaining substantial power in Congress, Democrats indicated that they
intend to push for a different course in Iraq. The planned departure of Mr.
Rumsfeld, one of the war's chief architects, signaled that President Bush
might be open to far-reaching changes. To his critics, Mr. Rumsfeld had
become a symbol of an administration that they saw as unbending and
defensive in its handling of the war.

Now come two decisive questions: Can Democrats agree on a unified approach
for pulling U.S. troops out? And will Mr. Bush show willingness to weigh
those ideas, which he has dismissed for months on the grounds that they
would essentially hand victory to the terrorists? Mr. Bush's appointment of
Robert Gates, a former head of the Central Intelligence Agency, to replace
Mr. Rumsfeld signaled to some that the president might be open to changes.

Triumphant Democrats argue that their victory in Tuesday's congressional
elections showed how strongly the U.S. public wants a new approach toward
Iraq. But they still aren't clear about how to get the U.S. out of a war
that has cost more than 2,800 American lives.

"Nowhere was the call for a new direction more clear from the American
people than in the war in Iraq," said the incoming speaker of the House,
Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi. "Hopefully, we can work with the president for
a new direction, one that solves the problems in Iraq."

Democrats, while divided over details on how to proceed, have coalesced
around some core concepts. These include a belief that, within months, the
U.S. should begin pulling back its forces in Iraq, which currently total
about 150,000, and push Iraqi troops to the fore. About 50,000 U.S. troops
would be left in Iraq. Some would focus on advising and mentoring Iraqi
forces. Most of the rest would serve as an emergency force that could swoop
in to help Iraqi forces in trouble. Many Democrats also support the idea of
holding negotiations with regional powerhouses such as Iran and Syria, which
maintain deep influence in Iraq.

Other critics of Mr. Rumsfeld's handling of the war, such as Sen. John
McCain, the Arizona Republican, likely will continue to call on the U.S. to
beef up its military presence in a bid to resolve Iraq's problems once and
for all. The drawback of such an approach is that the badly strained U.S.
Army and Marine Corps simply don't have enough available troops.

In remarks to reporters at the White House yesterday, President Bush didn't
give a clear sense of how he intends to proceed in coming weeks. He hinted
he was open to suggestions, but also vowed he wouldn't leave Iraq in the
lurch. Mr. Bush said he is seeking "fresh perspective" on Iraq, but that the
U.S. "cannot accept defeat." The president said he would bring back the
troops only when Iraq has become "a country that can govern itself, sustain
itself and defend itself."

White House officials say the events that led to Mr. Rumsfeld's replacement
began several weeks ago when Mr. Bush held a series of discussions with his
defense secretary about the deteriorating situation in Iraq. A senior
administration official says Mr. Bush had planned to replace Mr. Rumsfeld
regardless of how the elections played out. White House aides brought Mr.
Gates to the presidential compound in Crawford, Texas, for an interview on

When Mr. Rumsfeld submitted his resignation early Tuesday afternoon, Mr.
Bush accepted it. As polls began closing in parts of the country, the
president offered the job to Mr. Gates, officials say. Several White House
officials say Mr. Rumsfeld wasn't forced out, although one added: "It was
clear to Don that the president wanted him out." At a brief Oval Office
ceremony yesterday, Mr. Rumsfeld thanked Mr. Bush for the chance to have
served a second tour at the Pentagon, but took no questions about his

The most important figure at the moment may be a man who comes from neither
party's leadership. Former Secretary of State James Baker, an old Bush
family friend, is heading a bipartisan task force that is expected soon to
issue recommendations for future U.S. policy in Iraq. Mr. Bush has said he
plans to take seriously the proposals of the task force, which is co-chaired
by former Rep. Lee Hamilton, a Democrat. The president yesterday said he
plans to meet with task force members next week.

The commission's influence is likely to be bolstered by the fact that one of
its members is Mr. Gates, who will take over for Mr. Rumsfeld. The arrival
of Mr. Gates in the upper echelons of the Bush national-security team marks
the return to prominence of someone closely associated with the Iraq policy
views of the president's father, who took a markedly different approach to
Iraq during the Gulf War 15 years ago.

During that conflict, the U.S. drove Iraqi troops out of Kuwait. But the
senior Mr. Bush's team decided not to invade Iraq or drive to Baghdad to
oust Saddam Hussein. The first Bush team was afraid that such a move would
throw the country into turmoil, splinter it into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish
sections and compel the U.S. to stay in Iraq to put the nation back

Mr. Gates's boss at that time was Brent Scowcroft, then national security
adviser, who argued that driving into Iraq would be a mistake. The first
President Bush apparently agreed, as did Mr. Baker, then secretary of state.

The Baker commission is widely expected to call for talking directly to Iran
and Syria, both American foes, about problems in Iraq, in hopes of getting
their help in quelling the violence.

Mr. Gates had earlier advocated direct talks with Iran In the summer of
2004, Mr. Gates and President Carter's former national security adviser
Zbigniew Brzezinski co-chaired a task force that called for direct dialogue,
arguing that a lack of American engagement with Iran had harmed American

In a statement yesterday, Mr. Brzezinski, a critic of the war in Iraq,
hailed Mr. Gates's appointment and said it may mark "the beginning of a
major corrective in American policy towards the Middle East."

Mr. Rumsfeld had long resisted efforts to increase the number of U.S. troops
in Iraq. Even after his resignation, it isn't likely that there will be a
surge in U.S. ground forces into Iraq, as some people have sought.

The new defense secretary is more likely to oversee a shift of the U.S.
effort away from providing security in urban areas such as Baghdad to a more
advisory role -- in keeping with many Democrats' proposals. In such a
scenario, the Pentagon would turn big U.S. units into quick reaction forces
to bail out Iraqi soldiers and advisers who get overrun. Teams of American
advisers who live and work with Iraqi units would increase in number. U.S.
commanders are also debating how to increase the size and number of
provincial reconstruction teams, which oversee economic development and
local governance.

That would represent a scaling back of U.S. ambitions. Instead of trying to
transform Iraq into a model democracy, the U.S. would try to use the largely
Shiite Iraqi Army, which has been beset by corruption and allegations of
human-rights abuses, to stabilize the country. Police forces, which have
been widely infiltrated by Shiite militias, likely would get less support.

Senior military officials say a push to bolster the U.S. advisory effort in
Iraq has been in the works for several weeks and would have occurred even if
Mr. Rumsfeld remained in office. There are no plans to reduce U.S. force
levels in the country in the next 12 months, nor are there plans to move
troops out of urban areas.

But the focus of U.S. troops appears on the verge of shifting. Lt. Gen. Ray
Odieno, who will deploy to Iraq in the coming weeks to serve as the
second-highest ranking U.S. officer there, said in an interview that a move
to restructure and possibly increase the size of the advisory effort would
likely happen "sooner rather than later."

In pushing for a new approach in Iraq, the Democrats have public opinion on
their side, a fact that President Bush acknowledged yesterday. In exit polls
on Tuesday, nearly 60% of voters said the war had not improved the long-term
security of the U.S., and 55% said the U.S. should move to pull out some or
all troops from Iraq. After Tuesday's defeat, some Republicans may join
Democrats in pushing for change.

It may be difficult for Democrats to force the president to change policy.
Democratic leaders have said they will not resort to the ultimate cudgel:
their grip over wartime appropriations. Yet control of the House -- and
possibly of the Senate -- will give Democrats other tools.

Two Democratic congressmen have said they will introduce bills to increase
oversight of the troubled U.S.-led efforts to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure
and train its security personnel. Democrats have also said they will
subpoena information from the White House and Pentagon and force
administration officials to appear at public hearings.

Because the Bush administration may be reluctant to appear too open to
Democratic proposals, policy recommendations from the commission headed by
Messrs. Baker and Hamilton, known as the Iraq Study Group, could be
critical. The panel is set to release its proposal within weeks.

"I predict that the vehicle for a change in Iraq policy will be the
Baker-Hamilton commission. It gives Bush a way of saving face," says
Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware. If Democrats win control of the
Senate, Mr. Biden would take over as chairman of its Foreign Relations
Committee. "You have to give Bush a way out, because if you back him into a
corner, he gets too blindly stubborn to change course," he says.

Democrats are almost certain to back the commission's recommendations, which
are expected to include calls for a regional summit with Iraq's neighbors.
Several leading Republicans, such as Sen. John Warner of Virginia, the
current chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, have also said they
are likely to back the panel's proposals.

Still, Democrats and Republicans remain deeply divided about both the path
forward in Iraq and the conditions on the ground there.

The administration and many Republicans in Congress argue that for all the
problems, progress is being made. The White House says withdrawing U.S.
forces before Iraqis are ready to take over security responsibility would
lead to greater violence -- and possibly full-scale civil war. Some
Republicans also say a U.S. withdrawal would play to Islamic extremists'
belief that the U.S. could be driven out of the Middle East through
guerrilla violence, and would give terrorists a new haven in the heart of
the oil-rich region.

"I can understand Americans saying, 'Come home,' " Mr. Bush said yesterday.
"But I don't know if they said, 'Come home and leave behind an Iraq that
could end up being a safe haven for al Qaeda.' "

Many Democrats argue that Iraq is spiraling further out of control, with
little prospect of improvement. They say the open-ended U.S. military
commitment is harming morale and reducing the armed forces' ability to
prepare for potential future conflicts with countries like Iran or North
Korea. To prevent further damage to the American military and to jolt the
Iraqi government to make compromises needed to pacify the country, Democrats
assert, the U.S. must move soon to diminish its troop presence in Iraq.

Mr. Biden is championing a proposal he drafted with Leslie Gelb, president
emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. Democratic Sens. Carl Levin of
Michigan and Jack Reed of Rhode Island have hatched another plan, which has
received the backing of nearly all Senate Democrats. House Democrats like
Rep. Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania have proposed yet other redeployment plans.

Virtually all the Democrats' proposals call for a regional summit to engage
Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Syria, to help stabilize the country.
They call for a national reconciliation effort within Iraq designed to
bridge the gaping divisions between Iraq's Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds,
especially over control of the country's future oil revenues. There is also
a shared appeal among the Democrats' plans for more reconstruction work at a
time when U.S. funds are drying up and major companies engaged there, such
as Bechtel Corp., are pulling out. And all advocate the gradual
redeployment, or pulling out, of U.S. forces, with wide variations on
numbers and timing.

Looking to give a catchy ring to these proposals, Democratic Rep. Rahm
Emanuel of Illinois calls them "the five R's: reconciliation of the warring
parties, reconstruction, responsibility for results, recognizing the parties
in the region and then redeployment."

Top Democrats disagree on some important points. The central plank of Sen.
Biden's plan calls for Iraq to be divided into three semiautonomous
regions -- one largely Shiite, one Sunni and the last Kurdish -- each with
its own proportionate share of Iraq's oil wealth. Some prominent Democrats
have called that a recipe for massive sectarian strife.

New York's Sen. Hillary Clinton backs the idea of an oil trust that would
guarantee that each Iraqi gets a cut from the country's oil revenues instead
of divvying it up by region or ethnic identity.

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