It's impossible not to be skeptical that the necessary political deals and improvements in Iraqi security forces will take place. Unless there is progress that justifies withdrawals going well beyond those he announced last night, Mr. Bush is unlikely to achieve the agreement in Washington on Iraq he said he now aims for. Still, there are no easy alternatives to the present policy. In the past we have looked favorably on bipartisan proposals that would change the U.S. mission so as to focus on counterterrorism and training of the Iraqi army, while withdrawing most U.S. combat units. Mr. Bush said he would begin a transition to that reduced posture in December. But according to Gen. Petraeus, Mr. Crocker and the consensus view of U.S. intelligence agencies, if the U.S. counterinsurgency mission were abandoned in the near future, the result would be massive civilian casualties and still-greater turmoil that could spread to neighboring countries.
Mr. Bush's plan offers, at least, the prospect of extending recent gains against al-Qaeda in Iraq, preventing full-scale sectarian war and allowing Iraqis more time to begin moving toward a new political order. For that reason, it is preferable to a more rapid withdrawal. It's not necessary to believe the president's promise that U.S. troops will "return on success" in order to accept the judgment of Mr. Crocker: "Our current course is hard. The alternatives are far worse."
South Brunswick Post, The Cranbury Press
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