General Petraeus, next to a smug looking Ambassador Crocker, testifying we need to withdraw troops slowly (Guardian):
Clinton and McCain were speaking at a hearing at which the most senior US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, was giving evidence.
Petraeus lined up with McCain on the issue of troops, warning against withdrawing “too many troops too quickly”
Thirty-thousand extra US troops sent to Iraq last year are scheduled to return home by the end of July. Petraeus told the Senate committee he wanted a halt at that point to any further withdrawals for at least 45 days to assess the impact of troop reductions on security.
“At the end of that period, we will commence a process of assessment to examine the conditions on the ground and, over time, determine when we can make recommendations for further reductions,” Petraeus said.
The problem with what might otherwise be a wise suggestion from Petraeus is how do we interpret the results of the 45 day period? Looking purely at the level of violence in the country, if it goes down or stays the same, thats one thing. But what if that violence increases? With Al-Sadr threatening to end the ceasefire, determining causality would prove difficult. And without causality, drawing conclusions would be even more difficult, if not impossible.
Iraq is so volatile now, that any number of factors could increase the violence during any given period, at any point during or after withdrawal.
So in this case, what seems like a rational and compromising centrist position (“Let’s try bringing home some troops and see what happens”) is in fact setting up a test with too many factors to yield clear results. And we’ve seen what this administration does when the results are clearly against its recommendations.