President Obama deserves credit for not listening to the chorus of voices calling for a rapid drawdown of forces regardless of the consequences for Iraq, our military and the American people.Really, Eric? Who, precisely was calling for a rapid drawdown of forces "regardless of the consequences"? That was Republican propaganda made up for a long time. We had been hearing since the start of the campaign that if Barack Obama wins, he will airlift all the soldiers out of Iraq on one single day while they were being shot at by Iraqi insurgents. White flag! Surrender! Come on. Obama's plan has always been a careful, strategic and smart withdrawal of the troops by a date certain. Remember the Republican hoopla about dates certain?
In any case, that's not the point of this blog. The point is the Democratic, well-founded, concern that as many as 50,000 residual forces may be too much, and I would hope progressives would keep the pressure on the president to bring the number of residual troops in Iraq after August 2010 closer to the lower end of 35,000. But whether it is 35,000 or 50,000, we need to realize that the drawdown of US forces do not magically stop on August 31, 2010, and all 35,000 or 50,000 of the left-over forces are all withdrawn on one day, namely December 31, 2011 at 2359 hours. Even the residual force imprint will be reduced gradually over time.
What we have is a commitment by the President to begin the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. I urge my fellow progressives to see how much the debate on this issue has already shifted. We are no longer debating if the decision to go to war in Iraq was right. We are no longer talking about whether American forces from Iraq should be withdrawn by a date certain (gasp date certain!). We are not talking about whether dates certain for withdrawal of troops is Sarah Palin's "white flag of surrender". The national debate is now taking place based on the progressive presumptions that the war was a mistake and that a deadline is a good idea. What we're now debating is what that deadline is, and how fast the troops are drawn down. This is a major shift in the very premise of the debate, and in the direction of the left. We are no longer debating over the counterveiling values but the details.
So I say this is a good plan. Let it work. I know many would like a faster draw-down and a smaller residual force. I am one of them. I will help keep the pressure up, and I'll hope that both our pressure and the improving conditions on the ground will prompt the president to complete this plan ahead of schedule. But the President is keeping his promise of ending our mission in Iraq, redirecting our attention to actually fighting Al Queda and its extremist associates. When the history of this time is written, few will refuse to give President Barack Obama credit for a major shift in American policy and beginning a new era of rational leadership.