Obama's Plan for Iraq

If Washington is a zero-sum town, then conservatives should be pleased with President Obama's plan to leave Iraq. Liberal opponents of the war such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Chuck Schumer expressed concern with Obama's plan to leave 35,000 to 50,000 noncombat troops in Iraq after August 2010, withdrawing all only by the end of 2011. But Reid's displeasure is not the measure of good policy or sound military strategy. And the real question that the plan elicits is: What's the strategy? Wars, after all, do not end; they are won or lost. Understanding that the perfect cannot be the enemy of the good, as the president rightly suggested, it is still reasonable to question whether the war will be won by August 2010. And will the residual force tasked with counterterrorism, training and force protection have accomplished its mission by the end of 2011? There are substantial challenges ahead in Iraq, and pockets such as Kirkuk and Mosul remain flash points of conflict that cause genuine disquiet among military leaders on the ground. There will come a time when most U.S. forces can leave Iraq, certain that Iraq is "sovereign, stable, and self-reliant [and] provides neither support nor safe-haven to terrorists."

But isn't our aim to ensure that we meet that goal, and secure genuine long-term partnership, rather than hewing to an arbitrary timetable that puts politics first and leadership second?

Danielle Pletka is the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at AEI.

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