I don’t think Newt is criticizing or second-guessing the administration’s policy in Iraq so much as he is front-running it – probably in an effort to polish his credentials as a foreign policy heavyweight (“See, I suggested we should drawn down our forces in Iraq, and they listened to me.”)
I’d be willing to bet that Newt has either heard or strongly suspects that the rumors are true: The Cheneyites have decided on a major troop withdrawal, and have managed to convince President Bruce Almighty that this can be done without endangering the march to final victory in Iraq.
(In a sense, they would be correct. Now that the war has spun into Lebanon-style sectarian free-for-all, nothing can endanger Bush’s strategy for victory. That kind of victory now exists only in his head, where it is completely invulnerable to any setbacks on the ground.)
Back in the real world, though, if war with Iran really is on the program, then the fewer troops in Iraq the better. They may be needed for a ground campaign in Iran — or, even if not, to convince the Iranians that a ground campaign is a credible threat. And of course, the less troops left in Iraq, hunkered down in their permanent bases, the fewer the potential targets for any Iranian retaliatory moves following an American strike.
In other words, for the neocons withdrawal isn’t a way to cut their (and our) losses, and it’s certainly not any kind of backhand admission that the Iraq invasion was a mistake. Rather, it’s a necessary step to restore strategic freedom of action for the next phase of Operation Gotterdammerung. As I wrote some months back, failure in Iraq is an option, because even if that battle has been lost, the war will still go on.
If I’m right, my guess is we’ll know more about it fairly soon, as the semi-official media begins to shift from the old to the new party line, which may be something along the lines of: Those ungrateful Iraqis had their chance at democracy, but now it’s time for us to go, and the first step is to consolidate all our troops in a few key bases. Or maybe it will be: Even if there isn’t a government, the Iraqi Army is in great shape, and we can start bringing home the troops. Or maybe it will just be: Mission accomplished. On to Tehran.
With Newt leading the way – rhetorically, I mean.
The left’s response to Newt is not an indicator of how anyone else will be greeted if they give up on their support for war in Iraq. Newt and other neocons do not intend to back off their broader goals, just change the battlefield — and that battlefield is looking like Iran. Greeting them with pitchforks is the only sane response of those who do not want to give them a platform from which to launch World War III.