Rich Lowry

That is why U.S. troops are the only hope for stability in Iraq. Newsweek magazine reports on an exchange between two generals about the undermanned, failed Baghdad security plan. A four-star general asked Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, who was running day-to-day ground operations: "Do you have enough forces? Enough to clear an area and stay there to secure it 24/7?" Chiarelli replied, "Of course not." The four-star then predicted, "It's going to fail, it's absolutely going to fail."

It used to be that liberals understood this dynamic better than many conservatives. Once, they touted Gen. Eric Shinseki's recommendation -- blown off by Rumsfeld -- that it would take hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops to pacify Iraq. But now it's liberals who call for a Rumsfeldian policy of fewer boots on the ground. This shift makes sense if liberals think the war is irretrievably lost. There is evidence for that proposition, but none for the Rumsfeld-Murtha argument that Iraq will be a better place, with a stronger central government, if we begin to leave.

Since Bush is not ready to quit in Iraq, he was right to fire Rumsfeld and has been right to reject Murtha's call for a pullout. Bush also must rebuff any finessed version of the Rumsfeld-Murtha Option offered by the ISG. As retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey has noted, if we reduce our combat power in Iraq beyond a certain point, even the minimal presence of American logistics troops needed to support the Iraqi army will be unsustainable -- "we'll end up with 5,000 U.S. troops hostage in that country."

The Rumsfeld-Murtha Option is wishful thinking at its worst.

Rich Lowry

Rich Lowry is author of Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years .
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