Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sen. Warner (R-VA)'s remarks on Iraq--in which he recommends that the president consider withdrawing some number (maybe 5,000 or so, maybe less) troops from Iraq--have been getting a lot of press. You can see Warner's full press conference on C-SPAN's website (see around 17:00 for Warner talking about his policy recommendation). Warner still sounds firmly against a Congressionally-mandated timetable and says that he does not want to see a "repeat" of what Congress did during the Vietnam era. Moreover, he also doesn't think the president should explicitly set a long-term timetable; instead, he thinks the administration should withdraw those few thousand troops and then wait and see what happens--how Iraqi security forces react, how Iraq's neighbors react, how the loss of these soldiers affects US policy in Iraq. Warner says that the president could then decide, having seen these results, decide to withdraw another "contingent." Warner says he recommends these measures because he wants to reassert the ability of the US to shape events on the ground on Iraq and he hopes that this threat of a partial draw-down will force the Iraqi government to move towards political reconciliation.
So is this declaration a break with the administration? Could this be a hardening of Warner's position against a Congressionally-mandated timetable for withdrawal? Could this be a crack in Republican support for continued operations in Iraq, or a new tactic for warding off Congressionally-forced withdrawal in order to continue more extensive US operations in Iraq (not to say that this is only a political tactic--it is also a policy proposal, one that I'm sure there will be some debate over)?