What was anticipated in September, the retreat of the old bulls of the Republican Party from the Bush war policy, happened in June. The beginning of the end of U.S. involvement in the Iraq war is at hand.
"I rise today," said Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana on Monday, "to offer observations on the continuing involvement of the United States in Iraq. . . . [O]ur course in Iraq has lost contact with our vital interests in the Middle East and beyond."
According to the six-term, ex-chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, three factors make it improbable the "surge" can succeed -- and imperative the United States redeploy its troops, out of combat and perhaps out of Iraq: political fragmentation in Iraq, the growing strain on the U.S. military and the crumbling support at home.
Lugar's stance provides cover for Republicans anxious to break and join the chorus for early withdrawal. Beyond Sen. John McCain, a few generals and some neoconservative commentators, no one is calling for more U.S. troops. The handwriting is on the wall.
"A course change should happen now," said Lugar. But if his diagnosis seems on target, his remedy lacks credulity.
The United States has four strategic goals in Iraq, says Lugar. Prevent creation of a safe haven for terrorists. Prevent sectarian war from spilling out into the broader Middle East. Prevent Iran's domination of the region. Limit the loss of U.S. credibility through the region and the world as a result of a failed mission in Iraq.
Lugar's recommended policy to secure these goals: "[A] down-sizing and redeployment of U.S. military forces to more sustainable positions in Iraq and the Middle East."
Lugar is calling for what the Iraq Study Group recommended, a shift of U.S. combat brigades out of action and out of country, turning their duties over to the Iraqis.
Most Americans may concur and cheer Lugar. But what is hard to see is the connection between the goals Lugar declares are vital, and the policy course he proposes for securing them.
Those 150,000 U.S. troops are the most effective, if not the only reliable, units preventing all-out sectarian civil war and defending the government, the contractors, the aid workers and the Green Zone. If we draw them down, how secure will the Americans left behind, and the friends of America, be in Iraq? What is to prevent the enemy from launching Tet-style offensives in U.S.-abandoned sectors? When Tet occurred in Vietnam in 1968, we had 500,000 U.S troops to deal with it. It is really a time for truth.