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Spinning the troop reductions

In this post about a recent New York Times report that U.S. troop levels in Iraq could be significantly reduced by early next year, I claimed liberals would say it showed America was "giving up, pulling out too early, letting others clean up the mess we made, abandoning ordinary Iraqis to the insurgents, and so forth."

Longtime reader Big Ben challenged me on it:

Are we going to get a front-page post apology if no major lefty blog makes these criticisms after all?
Well, it's been a few days, so let's see how my prediction is panning out.

Overall, while I did indeed find a number of blogs taking a skeptical view of the potential troop reductions, the reaction was, frankly, not as widespread or blatantly hypocritical as I had suspected it would be. I guess some news is so good it's almost spin-proof. Almost.

Also, much of the skepticism I did find focused on the timetable for troop reductions being a lie, rather than being too early.

First, as a warm-up, let's take a look at some posts from a few days before the Times story ran. On Gorilla Radio Blog (scroll down), Ape thinks claims of a troop reduction, reported April 3 by Al Jazeera, look dubious:
If we are to believe Lt. Gen James Conway of the U.S. Marines, the U.S. may start removing soldiers from Iraq as well, as Iraqis are “starting to take control of their own situation,” or it is hoped they will soon, anyway. Conway may as well wish for a pony.
And Please bring me a glass of water comments on a related story that ran April 8th in Salon:
The troops will probably not decrease. After all, the Gray House has other spots on the globe in its cross hairs. Redeployment, not reduction. The entanglements will grow. The history of empires is like that. We have to wait for the collapse.

The legacy of Bush is war without end.
Moving on to responses to the April 11th Times article I mentioned in my post, Suburban Gorilla compared the Pentagon's statement to an article in British tabloid the Mirror, claiming America will be in Iraq through 2009:
You mean they lied to us?
THE US Army plans to remain in Iraq until at least 2009, secret documents obtained by the Mirror reveal.

Contract tender forms for civilian workers disclose a huge expansion of interrogation and detention centres in Iraq to remain in place for a minimum four more years...
Now, compare and contrast, class:
WASHINGTON, April 10 - Two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the American-led military campaign in Iraq is making enough progress in fighting insurgents and training Iraqi security forces to allow the Pentagon to plan for significant troop reductions by early next year, senior commanders and Pentagon officials say.
Who to believe? Hmmm...
Suburban Gorilla's post was cited by Progressive Blog Digest (scroll down), who calls the planned withdrawals "BS".

Of course, keeping at least some troops in Iraq through 2009 does not contradict the Pentagon's statement that the number of those troops will be sharply reduced in a year's time. Yet Skippy the Bush Kangaroo has even harsher words for Bush:
iraq: still a mess

...the suburban guerrilla notes that although awol's boys have been leaking to the compliant media whores that they will leave iraq soon, internal military documents indicate that they are, in fact, mendacious bags of excrement who plan to stay much longer.
Meanwhile, at Unqualified Offerings (I wonder which definition of "unqualified" he's using), Jim Henley says the Times article is a whitewash:
Me, I like my good news to be news. What the Times article gives us is mostly pious hopes and the assurances of various government employees (Iraqi and American) that they are doing their jobs very well thank you.

...It’s just another in a long line of pep talks about withdrawals we hope to make in the foreseeable future. None of them have come true yet. If this one does, it will be a nice change.
According to Medbh at Medbh Sings, in a real troop reduction, the military stops looking for new recruits:
If the US is pulling out of Iraq in the near future, as some US news stories suggest, then why are these men in our High Schools?????
They're Talking Up Arms

Military recruiters are fortifying their outposts at high schools, hoping a chummy familiarity will entice students to enlist...
For the rest of this disturbing story, click here.
Medbh also mentions the Mirror story.

And Joe Green, commenting over at Western Standard Blog, compares the troop reductions in Iraq to... wait for it... Vietnam:
Here comes the second Saigon Embassy evacuation, this time from Baghdad.

...The people of Spain have learned the hard way, and the people of Britain have learned the hard way. Canada knew it all along. And sooner or later the people of the United States are going to learn the hard way.
Along similar lines, an anonymous commenter at The Raw Story declares:
It is not a mater of IF we cut and run, but WHEN.
As a final note, there may have been less blogging about the Times article than would have otherwise been the case because it was quickly superseded in the blogosphere's collective consciousness by at least three subsequent stories: (1) Iraq's new interim president Jalal Talabani saying the U.S. might be out of Iraq in two years, (2) Poland and other coalition members making their own plans to withdraw from Iraq, and (3) Donald Rumsfeld saying "We don't have an exit strategy [for Iraq], we have a victory strategy."

Each of these stories generated heated responses of its own, but this post has already gone on long enough.


Anonymous said...

Hey, thanks for the stop by my site, and the input--

--I don't guess this is really surprising. I guess what bothers me is commentary from folks like Medbh (are you serious? Is he just against recruiting in general?) gets in the way of a more serious discussion.

I do think it's worth noting that any news on troop levels coming out of the Pentagon is colored by Rumsfeld's opinion on the matter, which as I understand it, is: insurgents want to kill American soldiers, so the more soldiers in Iraq, the more targets they have, and the worse the administration looks, because there will be more casualties (in the short term, anyway). This attitude in the civilian halls of the DoD keeps me a little skeptical, when lowering troop levels is a political as well as strategic consideration.  

Posted by Andrew Watkins



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