Monday, February 18, 2008

LA Times Editorial: Political Surge in Iraq

Today's editorial in the LA Times indicates a willingness on the Editorial staff's part to find some credibility in the lull in the sectarian fighting in Iraq and a recognition of what they call "the first tangible steps toward genuine political reconciliation."

The better things go in Iraq, the less likely it is that U.S. generals (or politicians) will want to risk jeopardizing their hard-won gains by drawing down. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has agreed to a request by Gen. David H. Petraeus to return to the pre-surge level of about 130,000 troops by August, and then allow a "strategic pause" to evaluate whether more can come home.

What might this say about November, 2008 and the U.S. general election?

Battlefield commanders know best how many troops are needed to keep the country stable, but as a political and economic matter, U.S. forces must leave Iraq eventually -- sooner, if voters choose a Democratic president, much later if the president-elect is Republican John McCain. Either way, the United States needs a logical, orderly exit strategy that minimizes the risk that civil war will resume when our troops leave.