As far as conservatives go, I can tolerate columnist George Will and often enjoy reading his work. Unlike most of what passes as conservatism today, Will tends to base his arguments on logic and fact, not emotion and rhetoric.
Making him even more of an anomaly in Republican circles, Will acknowledges and corrects his errors, when he makes them. As an added bonus, he's also a deft wordsmith.
Despite his many years in office, Congressman Steve Chabot (R-Westwood) could stand to take a few pointers from Will. Chabot, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, spoke during a hearing Wednesday about his concerns with a total withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by year's end.
President Obama announced in late October that he would withdraw the remaining 39,000 U.S. troops in Iraq by Dec. 31. Although Obama and his advisors originally had hoped to leave about 10,000 troops in Iraq, the Iraqi government’s refusal to grant those troops immunity from criminal prosecution for any future wrongdoing ended that plan.
Polls show Americans overwhelmingly support Obama's decision. A recent Gallup Poll found that 75 percent of respondents approve of the withdrawal. When broken down along party lines, 96 percent of Democrats support the decision, along with 77 percent of independents and 43 percent of Republicans. Other polls yielded similar results.
Since the United States invaded Iraq in March 2003, 4,485 U.S. troops have been killed there. Also, an estimated 1.45 million Iraqis have been killed. The United States has spent about $802 billion waging the war so far.
Mimicking the invective of some neocon GOP presidential hopefuls like Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, however, Chabot wants troops to stay put.
Before Wednesday's hearing, Chabot read a speech that stated, in part: “It is painfully clear that although the Iraqi army has progressed remarkably from where it once was, Iraq is not yet prepared to defend itself from the threat posed by its nefarious neighbors, Iran and Syria … Public reports indicate that General Lloyd Austin, Commanding General of U.S. Forces Iraq, requested and recommended approximately 20,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq. Unfortunately, these negotiations failed due to mismanagement by the White House. Amazingly, the White House is now trying to tout the breakdown and lack of agreement as a success inasmuch as it has met a promise President Obama made as a candidate. This blatant politicization calls into question the White House’s entire effort to secure a troop extension. Fulfilling a campaign promise at the expense of American national security interests is at best, strategic neglect and at worst, downright irresponsible.”
Chabot continued, “Although I understand that Iraq is a sovereign country, I believe there is much more we could have done to secure a reasonable troop presence beyond the end of this year. Accordingly, I’d like to again echo Senator Lieberman’s call to reopen negotiations with the Iraqis. It would be a failure of colossal proportions to withdraw our forces before Iraq is ready to stand on its own.”
In Chabot's mind, apparently, the Iraqi government's belief that it is ready to “stand on its own” isn't enough; its U.S. occupiers must agree.
Based on his stance, Chabot should answer some questions posed by Will in his Nov. 6 column. The piece, entitled “Let's Debate Iraq,” was aimed at Republican presidential contenders and asked them to better explain their foreign policy positions, but it applies equally as well here.
In the column, Will wrote, “How many troops would they leave in Iraq? For how long? And for what purpose? If eight years, 4,485 lives and $800 billion are not enough, how many more of each are they prepared to invest there? And spare us the conventional dodge about 'listening to' the 'commanders in the field.' Each candidate is aspiring to be commander in chief in a nation in which civilians set policy for officers to execute.”
Well, Mr. Chabot? We'd love to hear your answers.