The Democratic Party is in a state of utter disarray and infighting over which Iraq war policy to adopt and present to voters as it heads towards the November midterms. Last Fall, Sen. John Murtha (PA) put forth a controversial, immediate troop withdrawal resolution which was ridiculed by Republicans and ignored by Democrats. He's been followed last week by Sen. John Kerry (MA) who first called for a complete withdrawal by December 31 of this year. Under fire from his colleagues, including Sens. Carl Levin (MI), Chris Dodd (CT) and Joe Biden (DE) who fear being branded the "cut and run" party by the right, Kerry compromised and has shifted his timetable for withdrawal to July '07, as reported Wednesday in the NY Times.
Kerry's right. So's Murtha. It's time to get out of Iraq. We'll get to more of the why in a moment. But first it's important to come up with the how. We've created a sensible plan for withdrawal that could be the winning ticket for Democrats headed into November.
Below is our plan, which we call Peace with Security: a 5-Point Plan and a Promise. We strongly urge the Democratic leadership to adopt this measure in a unified manner. They must craft the message, create the talking points, and take it to the public as soon as possible.
1. Set timetable for 125,000 troop draw-down by Dec 31, 2007: By then, the war will have dragged on for 4 1/2 years. That's more than a reasonable amount of time to have given Bush to topple Saddam and to create his "new kind of Democracy." The Iraqis need to understand that we will not stay forever, and a timetable is the best way to get them off their asses and into serious action. Considering that 90% of the insurgency consists of Saddam loyalists and Baathist holdovers who oppose the U.S. occupation, chances are much of the violence may subside as a result. The remaining 10% will be Iraq's responsibility to contain. Democrats have a plan to bring the troops home in a realistic timetable.
2. Leave 15,000 troops stationed in Iraq after 12/31/07 to assist with peace-keeping: For over 55 years we've had troops in dozens of countries, with major deployments in S. Korea, Japan and Germany. There's no reason we can't have a minimal yet meaningful military presence in Iraq. Democrats have a plan for post-withdrawal stability.
3. Increase funding for security training and equipment to $5-billion from less than $1-billion: the House on Tuesday passed a defense spending bill which also gave $1-billion for training and equipping Iraqi and Afghan security forces. This is not enough if we're ever going to be able to pull out and have the Iraqis defend its new democracy and protect its citizens. We must aggressively step up the training process and get Iraq's security forces fully prepared to take over. Democrats have a plan to successfully train Iraqi forces to stand on their own.
4. Commit to return if necessary: Assure the American public that the U.S. is ready at the drop of a hat to re-deploy over 100,000 troops to Iraq if our intelligence and military assets on the ground indicates that Al Qaeda and/or any other terror organization which threatens us here on U.S soil has gained a stronghold over the country.
5. Embark on major new enlistment drive for armed services and National Guard: the U.S. military is currently spread so thin that soldiers and guardsmen are being forced to serve multiple tours of duty. Recruitment has missed the army's goals, and America needs to increase its troop-strength. It's time for appreciable across-the-board pay raises and increased benefits for our servicemen and women. And it's also time to beef up the Guard so that we are fully prepared to take on a major national disaster like Hurricane Katrina even if our troops are at war overseas. Democrats will honor our soldiers and veterans with compensation they deserve, and will keep our military strong, prepared and on constant alert.
The Promise: as Democrats, we promise the American people that we will never, ever, send our soldiers--men and women, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters--off to war unless it is absolutely necessary, as a last resort, to defend against a direct, imminent threat to our country and/or to our allies.
This is a realistic plan to end the occupation, one that affords the U.S. government plenty of time to fully prepare our military for the transition, as well as to aggressively train the Iraqi security forces to assume the mantle on December 31, 2007. It is also a plan that will resonate with the majority of Americans who are fed up with this war and want a realistic, viable timetable and plan for withdrawal but who oppose a simple cut and run.
We need to demonstrate to voters that we are the party that can successfully end the war and continue to strongly defend our nation and protect our citizens. But more important, there has to be a very clear distinction between what we're offering voters and that of the Republicans. The Hillary strategy won't work. "Republican Lite" is not what Democratic voters want from the party, They want an alternative, not mirroring.
Now let's get back to the why. The Iraq war is an unjust, ill-conceived, under-planned, poorly orchestrated disaster that's spiraling out of control with no end in sight, and no real plan on the table from the Busheviks except "Stay the Course." As Murtha said this week, "that's not a plan." We just surpassed the milestone of 2500 U.S. soldiers killed. Contrary to what Bush says, there is no real progress. The violence and death has escalated in the last two years, and essential services--electricity, water, oil production--are at less than pre-war levels, as the Brookings Institute reported Monday. The course which Bush wants us to stay is completely undefined and unrealistic. Rather than use the pejorative cut and run, I'd much rather use the more sensible cut our losses. It's time to stop spilling the blood of our young men and women.
Peace with Security: a 5-Point Plan and a Promise. A winning campaign theme for November? We think so.