Reyes and the Hollowness of ‘Conditions-Based’ Withdrawal

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008 at 10:00 am

Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.) is generally treated like a clown, and not entirely without reason. But he just asked a great question that gets at a strategic lacuna in Petraeus’ idea of a “conditions-based” withdrawal. If Basra or anywhere else gets out of control, would the general recommend “reinstat[ing] the surge?”

Petraeus called that a remote possibility. He made the eyebrow-raising statement that the Iraqis could take care of it. (So why don’t we leave now?) More candidly, he led off by saying that broader “strategic” frameworks — the resurgence of Al Qaeda along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, for instance — make recommending a renewed increase in troop strength unlikely. Combine that with the acknowledged strain on the military and the surge is almost assuredly over for good.

Except that makes no sense at all if you believe that withdrawal should be “conditions-based.” Sure, there is a resource question. But if the primary criterion is that U.S. responses to Iraq should be purely based around conditions, then re-upping must be on the table at all times — otherwise, conditions don’t guide U.S. responses. And if that’s the case, then broader questions of national strategy should predominate over conditions in Iraq, even if you concede that mitigating against a security deterioration in Iraq is a U.S. responsibility. Stay in Iraq and you have to raise the idea of a resurgence. That light you see at the end of the tunnel is the flash accompanying the rebirth of The Surge!

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Categories & Tags: National Security|

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