President Bush ordered a halt on further troop withdrawals from Iraq on Thursday. Once current cuts are completed in July, the U.S. will have 140,000 soldiers in Iraq—about 10,000 more than before last year’s surge. Bush’s decision, which came after Gen. David Petraeus told Congress that progress was too fragile for any further reductions, essentially ensures that the decision on any major cutbacks will be left to his successor. (The Boston Globe, free registration)
What the commentators said
“Bush has run out the clock,” said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post (free registration). The president used the surge to buy time, and now he’s hiding “behind Petraeus’ breastplate of medals” to avoid what he should have done long ago—defining the enemy, and telling Americans what defines success in Iraq. So now, Bush talks about withdrawal, but he’s leaving behind more troops than we had in Iraq before the surge. Sounds more like an “escalation.”
Which is exactly what we need, said Michael Yon in The Wall Street Journal. The “transformation” we accomplished over the last 14 months “is little short of miraculous.” The progress in reducing violence that we made by sending over an extra 30,000 troops has made Abu Ghraib a “distant memory,” and turned the U.S. military into the most respected institution in Iraq. “Victory—and a democracy in the Arab world—is within our grasp.” Let’s surge some more.
If the surge worked as promised, we’d be bringing our troops home right now, said Steve Chapman in the Chicago Tribune. “It turns out that we have accomplished only enough to allow us to remain in Iraq indefinitely with more forces than we had when the surge began.” It just goes to show that, no matter what happens in Iraq, “the Bush policy is always the same: Stay the course.” And John McCain appears willing to continue “stumbling through the dark” as Bush has.
Democrats have shamelessly twisted McCain’s willingness to leave troops in the region for 100 years to promote stability, said Clifford D. May in National Review Online. “But there is a hard truth that McCain did not state: A hundred years from now, Americans might still be fighting militant Islamists in Iraq and other places. What could be worse than that? A hundred years from now, America and the West could have been defeated by militant Islamists.”