On the question of drawdown of U.S. troops from Iraq


Sep 6, 2000
This question is for all, but I'm particularly interested in hearing from those who advocate pulling out all troops from Iraq. The rationale I've most often heard given for that position, is that maintaining an open-ended deployment in Iraq has a negative effect on political progress there. However, I've not really heard a clear articulation for why U.S. troop numbers would have the effect of changing political progress (for good or bad). That being said, I would appreciate anyone who can elaborate on some questions which flow from this premise:

Would changing the amount of U.S. troops affect political progress in Iraq? If so, what is the reason this is so? Is it quantifiable and does it scale directly (e.g. halving troops leads to doubling in progress)? Is there a point of diminishing returns? If we increased the number of troops instead, would that slow progress even further?

Lemon law

Nov 6, 2005
To glenn1,

I agree that you are asking the correct set of questions, the maybe flawed assumption, at least IMHO, is that anyone can give you a correct answer not based on sheer guesses and gut feelings. Usually always poor future predictors.

But for what its worth, not that I think Patraeus and Crocker are idiots or geniuses, they are doing the safe thing by saying this is no time to be reducing troop levels given the fact that Iraqi events are moving fast and everything is unpredictable right now. So their position seems to be wait at least 45 days and then re access.

Other than that, and I hope I will not be accused of partisan ship, there seems to be three basic schools of thought on Iraq.

1. The primary GOP position that also extends into part of the democratic party is that we must stay "as long as it takes" to establish a democratically elected government able to take over in Iraq. And meanwhile fight terrorists and Iranian influence over there so we don't have to fight it back home. And when we win in Iraq, democracy will spread to the rest of the region. And people like McCain feel that soon the violence will reduce and the military occupation can become much cheaper because the political progress is starting to come.

2. The mainly democratic position is that Iraq and the Iraqi government has grown too dependent on US troops. And the presence of too may US troops simply retards all Iraqi political progress. And the Iraqi people will simply keep squabbling among themselves and do nothing to govern themselves until they realize they have to because the US will start withdrawing troops unless benchmarks are met. But even then, the US will keep enough troops in Iraq or nearby to guarantee no nation will invade the militarily weak Iraqis who will have to also build an army in the future. Somewhat the Clinton and Obama position.

3. The fairly small camp of people like me who were mostly against the war in the first place. But now that we are in, feel Iraq must be fixed or its going to cause any number of future problems that are worse than the quagmire we are in. And we seem to share some views (1) Unless we have some 500,000 troops, its fruitless to talk military options. (2) The key to Iraq is rebuilding its economy and the jobs that will get the Iraqi people working. (3) We must engage the international community and step one is to not think we are the only deciders here. We need to also engage all of Iraq's neighbors, especially Iran, and find the common interests. With somewhat of a blueprint to that being laid out in the Baker Hamilton and Iraqi study group reports.

And since option #1 seems to be the only option yet tried and a slight escalation in troops numbers seems to have largely reduced overall violence during the "surge", and that is about the only mathematical relationship thus far established. There are alternative theories to explain the violence reductions were not caused by the surge, but thats still being hotly debated. And your question seems oddly timed, because recent Iraqi events may put all theories to a test. Or make all theories no longer apply.

I can only say I am now confused. In some ways, recent events may be the start of breaking the powers of Iraqi insurgencies leading to progress or they could result in things getting much worse in future. Since predicting is something we all see dimly and have no basic control over, I can hope for the best and advise extreme caution on the worst. And that cheerleading is fruitless.