Damned if You Do: Couric Questions Wisdom of Iraq Withdrawal

Anyone who believes the Bush administration could appease the MSM and their political allies on the left via a major troop withdrawal from Iraq need look no further than this morning's Today show to be disabused of the notion.

Shades of Bush Sr.'s "read my lips" debacle, in which the very same Democrats who wheedled him into raising taxes turned immediately around and condemned him for breaking his promise.

For there was Katie Couric, questioning the wisdom of withdrawal and painting a bleak picture of a post-withdrawal Iraq.

Her guests were retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey and Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Katie's first question: "what are some of the problems about reducing the troop levels in terms of the state of Iraq? Are you worried about that?"

McCaffrey assured her there would be no precipitous withdrawal because we would wind up "with a giant civil war right in the middle of our oil supplies."

Couric then tipped her hand as to why she was suddenly so concerned at the prospect of troop reductions: her hero, John McCain, is preaching the opposite tactic.

She importuned: "so John McCain saying we need to add more troops?"

McCaffrey: "It's a moot point; it's not going to happen."

Katie continued to play the worry-wart in her questioning of Haass: "do you worry from a diplomatic perspective about reducing the numbers of troops, and not staying the course as Pres. Bush has advocated?"

Haass: "I don't worry because we're talking about reductions, not withdrawals." He made a solid point - that the real story of the reductions will be "the narrative." Are we withdrawing for positive reasons - because Iraq is strong - or for negative ones, e.g. because we can't military sustain our presence, because the Iraqis don't want us there, or because our being there stimulates opposition?

Couric then raised the specter of a ruined post-withdrawal Iraq: "what if withdrawing or reducing the number of troops leaves Iraq in worse shape than before the invasion?"

McCaffrey: "There's enormous concern we not pull out till we see Iraqi security forces can maintain internal order."

Let this morning's segment be a cautionary tale to any weak-kneed Republicans foolish enough to believe that acceding to demands for an accelerated withdrawal will earn the Bush administration an iota of respite, let alone praise, from the MSM and the Dems.

The minute any such withdrawal begins, the left's tune will change immediately to criticizing the withdrawal as evidence of failure and US weakness and condemning it as an abandonment of the Iraqi people.

Those who might sputter "but, but, these were the same people who were demanding withdrawal!", should reflect on the current situation. The same people who before the war described Saddam's WMD threat in even more dire terms than W are now saying that WMD's were a pretext for war. Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, at least so far as the left is concerned.

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.