I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Bush's Problem of Premature Withdraw - from Iraq

President Bush's response to growing unrest with the ongoing war in Iraq has been to announce that America will "stand down as Iraqi security forces stand up." This response has led to speculation that his "exit strategey" is an election year withdraw: anything that will ensure American troops will be largely out of Iraq, or concretely on their way out, in time to prevent the complete demolition of GOP Congressional candidates in November, 2006 as a result of this increasingly unpopular war. And this "pre-election withdraw" theory seems to have been bolstered by the fact that the Pentagon has now prepared a plan detailing the mechanics of precisely such a pullout.

Although most of Bush's anti-war critics will be pleased the moment Bush decides that he wants to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq, he is likely to run into all sorts of difficulties from the hard-core, pro-war supporters on whom he depends for so much. David Broder has a fawning profile today in The Washington Post of John McCain, where Broder contends that a successful outcome in Iraq is more important to the vigorously pro-war McCain's political future than it is to anyone else's. And as Broder's column admiringly notes, McCain has been extremely vocal in the past whenever he sensed that the Administration was insufficiently committed to winning the war.

As Bush's popularity plummets and he gets closer to full-on "lame duck" status, these pro-war stalwarts will aggressively ramp up their opposition to any efforts by Bush to pull away from Iraq in order to salvage the 2006 elections. Undoubtedly, there will be loud and insistent attacks on Bush from his right flank -- comprised of the likes of McCain, Bill Kristol, and some of the hard-core "pro-Israel" evangelical fanatics -- who will be ranting and screeching in protest if he attempts what they deem to be premature and/or politically motivated withdraw from Iraq.

Witness the withering rhetorical assault which Kristol launched on Republicans last week -- in an article concisely entitled "Pathetic" -- all because they dared to request periodic updates from the Administration in the hopes of getting closer to the goal of withdrawing American troops. That tongue-lashing is a miniscule fraction of what which will be unleashed on Bush from the pro-war Right if he tries to withdraw from Iraq before they think it's time to do so.

Here is Kristol, along with Robert Kagan, in the Weekly Standard today announcing their expectation that we will be in Iraq for a long time:

Victory is in fact possible, though it will require a longer war than anyone would like, but not so long a war as to be intolerable. What would be intolerable would be to lose to the terrorists in Iraq.

It doesn't sound like Bill Kristol is planning on being out of Iraq any time soon, and certainly not before the 2006 elections, now less than a year away.

The forces comprising this group care far more about their dream of dominating the Middle East and creating a compliant, pro-U.S. (and pro-Israel) Iraq than they care about GOP Congressional candidates in some run-of-the-mill midterm election. They have waited a long time to get their hands on Iraq and they are not going to give it up until they are convinced that the "job is really done."

And while the Bush Administration will be eager to be out of Iraq no matter what in order to preserve Republican domination of the Congress, this Iraq-uber-alle group will not tolerate any departure from Iraq before their dream is fulfilled.

Staying in Iraq and throwing the GOP candidates in 2006 to an angry electorate which will hate the war even more than they do now is not a viable option for Bush. But trying to "cut and run," as it were, even while pretending to leave only because the U.S. has won, is going to provoke a vicious war of its own with the only friends which Bush has left.

Add this to the ever-growing list of reasons why it is not fun to be George W. Bush right about now.

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