WASHINGTON -- After months of trying unsuccessfully to develop a common message on the war in Iraq, Democratic Party leaders are beginning to coalesce around a broad plan to begin a quick withdrawal of US troops and install them elsewhere in the region, where they could respond to emergencies in Iraq and help fight terrorism in other countries.
The concept, dubbed ''strategic redeployment," is outlined in a slim, nine-page report coauthored by a former Reagan administration assistant Defense secretary, Lawrence J. Korb, in the fall. It sets a goal of a phased troop withdrawal that would take nearly all US troops out of Iraq by the end of 2007, although many Democrats disagree on whether troop draw-downs should be tied to a timeline.
This sounds like the same argument that's been going on for at least a year, certainly since Rep. Murtha spoke up and called for withdrawal. And a timeline is firmly rejected by a majority of pretty much any group you study. This simply sounds like a group hoping to sound like middle-of-the-roaders, and searching for a plan that reinforces that impression.
Howard Dean, Democratic National Committee chairman, has endorsed Korb's paper and begun mentioning it in meetings with local Democratic groups. In addition, the study's concepts have been touted by the senator assigned to bring Democrats together on Iraq -- Jack Reed of Rhode Island -- and the report has been circulated among all senators by Senator Dianne Feinstein, an influential moderate Democrat from California.
The party remains divided on some points, including how much detail to include in a party-produced document, fearful of giving too much fodder for attacks by Republicans.
You wouldn't want to come up with a detailed policy based on, oh, say, firmly held beliefs, that might be open to criticism. The "influential moderate" senator from California might have difficulty defending them.
But in its broad outlines, many leading Democrats say the Korb plan represents an answer to Republicans' oft-repeated charge that Democrats aren't offering a way forward on Iraq -- and to do so in a way that is neither defeatist nor blindly loyal to the president.
''We're not going to cut and run -- that's just Republican propaganda," Dean said in a speech Feb. 10 in Boston. ''But we are going to redeploy our troops so they don't have targets on their backs, and they're not breaking down doors and putting themselves in the line of fire all the time. . . . It's a sensible plan. It's a thoughtful plan. I think Democrats can coalesce around it."
Let's look at this plan for a minute. A "rapid withdrawal and redeployment?" And from these distant locations Americans would be able to assist with the project they started how? Would they, from their new bases, be able to go wherever they wanted to "fight terrorism?" Is this redeployment dependent on the development of Iraqi forces' ability to handle the nation's security? If so, how is this different from the Administration's current plan, which is to draw down troop levels gradually as the Iraqi's prove capable?
After Rep. Murtha called for a withdrawal the vote in the House was 403-3 against immediate withdrawal. Acknowledging the futility of pushing for withdrawal, this plan is too clever by half. Hiding the call for withdrawal in the garments of "strategic redeployment" is not a plan for victory, and unless the Democrats can demonstrate how this plan absent a consideration of Iraqi capabilities leads to victory and makes America (note: not American soldiers) safer then it is not a viable plan.