Thursday, January 11, 2007

British Troop Levels Expected to Decline

Steadily, our coalition partners over the last two have been leaving or reducing their troop levels. Our biggest partner, the British, had some 40,000 troops in Iraq at one time. Those levels have fallen as we hear from Alan Cowell of The New York Times:
Britain, which had been America’s closest and most pliant ally in Iraq, said Thursday that it would not follow the United States in raising troop levels there and signaled that it would proceed with plans to hand over security responsibilities to Iraqi forces in the south.

Britain has about 7,000 troops in Iraq, most in the southern city of Basra, and says the situation there is far less dire than in Baghdad.

Officials here dismissed as speculation, though, a report in The Daily Telegraph on Thursday that those numbers would be cut by 3,000 before the end of May.

British officials offered a cautious welcome for President Bush’s announcement but made clear that it would not distract them from trying to reduce British forces.

Overall numbers for coalition forces are dropping and Bush wants us to believe sending 20,000 more of our troops will actually make a difference in his failing policy. I have already mentioned that Bush appears to be fumbling Iraq into the hands of the next president. Personally, I suspect that part of the purpose of the troop surge is to set up conditions so that the blame will fall on the Iraqis rather than Bush when it becomes obvious that continuing Bush's fiasco is no longer acceptable. But blaming the Iraqis is a sideshow compared to blaming the Syrians and Iranians and using that as an excuse to expand the war. We are in very dangerous territory.

Yes, the Iraqis have to accept responsibility for their country in years to come but don't anyone pretend that Bush's war hasn't done serious damage to the United States and that the damage is somehow separate from the fundamental flaws in the assumptions the Bush Administration made in going to war. Unilateralism is a bust. The preemptive strike principle as defined by Bush never made any sense. Imposing democracy at the point of a gun is a profound moral contradiction. And threatening to lower the threshhold for the use of nuclear weapons should be explicitly recognized for what it is: an extremist doctrine that has no place in American foreign policy. Democrats and Republicans need to unite in putting an end to Bush's profound moral recklessness.

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