During the past year, senior Democrats have often cited the remarks of Gen. Zinni and Gen. Batiste, in particular, in their attacks on the administration's conduct of the war. But I doubt they'll be citing them anymore -- or these officers for that matter. Zinni wants more forces in Iraq, and Batiste characterizes Democratic troop withdrawal plans as "terribly naÃ¯ve." From today's New York Times:
One of the most resonant arguments in the debate over Iraq holds that the United States can move forward by pulling its troops back, as part of a phased withdrawal. If American troops begin to leave and the remaining forces assume a more limited role, the argument holds, it will galvanize the Iraqi government to assume more responsibility for securing and rebuilding Iraq.
This is the case now being argued by many Democrats, most notably Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who asserts that the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq should begin within four to six months.
But this argument is being challenged by a number of military officers, experts and former generals, including some who have been among the most vehement critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policies.
Anthony C. Zinni, the former head of the United States Central Command and one of the retired generals who called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, argued that any substantial reduction of American forces over the next several months would be more likely to accelerate the slide to civil war than stop it.
"The logic of this is you put pressure on Maliki and force him to stand up to this," General Zinni said in an interview, referring to Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister. "Well, you can't put pressure on a wounded guy. There is a premise that the Iraqis are not doing enough now, that there is a capability that they have not employed or used. I am not so sure they are capable of stopping sectarian violence."
Instead of taking troops out, General Zinni said, it would make more sense to consider deploying additional American forces over the next six months to "regain momentum" as part of a broader effort to stabilize Iraq that would create more jobs, foster political reconciliation and develop more effective Iraqi security forcesâ€¦.
But some current and retired military officers say the situation in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq is too precarious to start thinning out the number of American troops. In addition, they worry that some Shiite leaders would see the reduction of American troops as an opportunity to unleash their militias against the Sunnis and engage in wholesale ethnic cleansing to consolidate their control of the capital.
John Batiste, a retired Army major general who also joined in the call for Mr. Rumsfeld's resignation, described the Congressional proposals for troop withdrawals as "terribly naÃ¯ve."
Kenneth M. Pollack, an expert at the Brookings Institution who served on the staff of the National Security Council during the Clinton administration, also argued that a push for troop reductions would backfire by contributing to the disorder in Iraq.
"If we start pulling out troops and the violence gets worse and the control of the militias increases and people become confirmed in their suspicion that the United States is not going to be there to prevent civil war, they are to going to start making decisions today to prepare for the eventuality of civil war tomorrow," he said. "That is how civil wars start."