Robert Bluey

The House of Representatives voted last week to begin pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq in four months, a gesture that appeased the antiwar crowd but sent a message of retreat and surrender to the brave men and women fighting overseas.

As Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) celebrated their largely symbolic victory, the Senate headed down a similar path. Although senators were supposed to be debating next year’s military budget, they instead bogged down in a series of votes over President Bush’s Iraq strategy.

It seems that Democrats, along with some Republicans, have run out of patience with the “surge” of 30,000 troops to confront the enemy and reduce violence in Iraq. Even though the plan has been fully operational for only about three weeks, the same senators who essentially voted for it are now ready to back out.

Army Gen. David Petraeus, the man leading the Multi-National Force in Iraq, won unanimous Senate confirmation in January. After he outlined his strategy of a surge, senators in both parties agreed to let Petraeus give it a shot. Early results indicate the reinforcements are having some impact, resulting in less bloodshed in Baghdad and Anbar. Unfortunately, any sign of good news in Iraq is bad news for Democrats in Congress.

A progress report released last week by the Bush administration showed mixed results on 18 benchmarks to be met by the Iraqi government; the next evaluation is due from Petraeus on Sept. 15. Although that was supposed to be the date to evaluate the situation, the general’s one-time supporters in Congress are now moving up the timeline.

Emboldened by three Republican defections -- Sens. Richard Lugar (Ind.), George Voinovich (Ohio) and Pete Domenici (N.M.) -- liberals proposed several measures to bring an end to the U.S. mission in Iraq.

Although House Democrats were able to win passage for their pullout bill, Senate Republicans managed to block a proposal from Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) stipulating combat deployment schedules. Had the measure passed, it would have been the first step toward cutting and running from Iraq by tying the president’s hands and limiting the military command’s decision-making ability.

Last week’s votes made it clear that liberals in Congress have no qualms about micromanaging the war instead of letting commanders on the ground issue the orders. They would just as soon walk away from Iraq, setting the stage for a humanitarian disaster.

This week promises more of the same in the Senate. Facing demands from their antiwar base to bring a quick end to the war, liberals are willing to give up the fight against terrorists on their main battlefield.

While I certainly understand the American public’s growing weariness about Iraq, pulling out U.S. troops now would present the worst possible scenario. Al Qaeda is a serious threat and, according to a classified report in the news last week, is growing in power. Handing the country over to terrorists not only would undermine the fledgling government but also create tremendous instability. If the situation in Iraq is bad today, just imagine how disastrous it would be with al Qaeda in charge.

Giving up the effort in Iraq would bolster our enemies and give them time to build dangerous alliances, creating a more complex scenario for our military in the years to come. What’s worse is the potential for a regional conflict that would consume the already volatile Middle East.

This short-sighted view -- whether from liberals or conservatives -- poses a great threat to America. If we’re going to keep the battle off our soil, abandoning Iraq is the wrong approach to take.


Robert Bluey

Robert B. Bluey is director of the Center for Media & Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation and maintains a blog at RobertBluey.com