In general, for an occupying military force to state a planned pullout date is a very bad idea both tactically and politically. Even if the occupation comes with the blessing of a vast majority of the residents, when there is a violent insurgency waiting in the wings to take over the country, the force must remain until the resident military is powerful and dedicated enough to put down any uprising against the fledgling government. In light of that bit of geo-political conventional wisdom, this story came across the pond today...
BAGHDAD (AP) — Eleven Sunni insurgent groups have offered an immediate halt to all attacks — including those on American troops — if the United States agrees to withdraw foreign forces from Iraq in two years, insurgent and government officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Al-Maliki, in televised remarks Wednesday, did not issue an outright rejection of the timetable demand. But he said it was unrealistic, because he could not be certain when the Iraqi army and police would be strong enough to make a foreign presence unnecessary for Iraq's security.
In Washington, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that President Bush's "view has been and remains that a timetable is not something that is useful. It is a signal to the enemies that all you have to do is just wait and it's yours. "The goal is not to trade something off for something else to make somebody happy, the goal is to succeed," he said.
In addition to the withdrawal timetable, the Iraqi insurgents have demanded:
• An end to U.S. and Iraqi military operations against insurgent forces.
• Compensation for Iraqis killed by U.S. and government forces and reimbursement for property damage.
• An end to the ban on army officers from Saddam's regime in the Iraqi military.
• An end to the government ban on former members of the Baath Party — which ruled the country under Saddam.
• The release of insurgent detainees.
First of all, rag-tag bands of smelly guerilla fighters do not make demands of the U.S. military. Over time, if we wish to do so, we will hunt down and kill all insurgents who disrupt the blossoming democracy in Iraq. That being said, I don't think the American people will ever wish to do so. It's too expensive in terms of lives and materiel. I know the U.S. withdrawl timetable is dynamic, depending on the capabilities of the Iraqi police force and military, but we have to leave sooner or later and the American people are starting to sound like they would prefer sooner...much sooner.
Obviously we will reject the two year withdrawl date, however, if the insurgents stop indiscriminately killing people, both military and civilian, with IED's, sniper fire, beheadings, suicide bombings, and ambushes, the U.S. military would stop killing insurgents. If they stop the killing, the insurgents will cease to become insurgents and will become citizens again. The problem is a lot of these insurgents are not Iraqi. They are from neighboring countries who've come to make war against the Great Satan.
The U.S. is not going to offer repairations for death and destruction. Saddam brought us here...it's his problem. The U.S. military is good at only two things...killing people and breaking things. They are not particularly interested in compensation for damaged property or loss of life....that's what they do.
The last three demands really are the business of the newe Iraqi government...not ours. Those demands should be made as part of the process of democratic politics. If the people want it, they can vote for it and make it happen.
I doubt we will take seriously any of the demands of people who are shooting at us, but a cease fire would be nice for the guys on the ground over there and their families back home. And if it led to some sort of pull-out in the near future, so much the better. With mid-term elections around the corner, popularity for an indefinite occupation of Iraq ebbing with the American people, coallition allies like Japan going home--or at least getting increasing pressure from voters back home to leave Iraq, and the American body count continuing to rise without much perceived progress lately, Bush might just be tempted to consider a conditional cease-fire based on no more attacks on U.S. troops or Iraqi civilians. I don't think I would have a problem with that.
Besides the obvious benefits of far fewer American casualties to report, it would give the Iraqi military and police force breathing room to strengthen and come on-line to provide for their own security, it would show the American people that there is light at the end of the tunnel for this adventure, and it would give the Iraqi people, as well as the citizens of the allied countries the confidence that their sacrifice was worth it. What better way, besides defending your own country, to use the military than to liberate a people from the grip of a ruthless, murdering dictator and establish for them a functioning republic based on the rule of law and fundamental human rights and freedoms?