The Iraq War Coalition Continues To Crumble

This time, though, we’re not talking about the international coalition of nations supporting the United States’ polices in Iraq, we’re talking about the coalition in the United States Senate, and, more specifically, one very influential Senator:

Sen. John W. Warner, one of the most influential Republican voices in Congress on national security, called on President Bush yesterday to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq in time for Christmas as a new intelligence report concluded that political leaders in Baghdad are “unable to govern effectively.”

Warner’s declaration — after the Virginia senator’s recent four-day trip to the Middle East — roiled the political environment ahead of a much-anticipated progress report to be delivered Sept. 11 by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commanding general in Iraq. Although Warner had already broken with Bush’s strategy, this was the first time he endorsed pulling troops out by a specific date.

Warner’s comments followed the release of a new National Intelligence Estimate that provided a mixed assessment on Iraq seven months after Bush ordered more U.S. troops to the country. The report, produced by the CIA and 15 other intelligence agencies, determined that “there have been measurable but uneven improvements in Iraq’s security.” But it predicted the Iraqi government “will become more precarious” in the next six to 12 months with little hope of reaching accommodation among political factions.


At his Capitol Hill news conference, Warner, a former Navy secretary and Armed Services Committee chairman, threw Bush’s own words back at him by noting that the president has said the U.S. commitment in Iraq must not be “open-ended.” Warner said it was time for the president to come up with an “orderly and carefully planned withdrawal,” suggesting that Bush “send a sharp and clear message” to the Iraqis by announcing a pullout plan by Sept. 15 — one that would involve at least a symbolic fraction of the 160,000 troops coming home by the holidays.

“I can think of no clearer form of that than if the president were to announce on the 15th that in consultation with our senior military commanders, he’s decided to initiate the first step in a withdrawal of armed forces,” Warner said. “I say to the president respectfully, ‘Pick whatever number you wish.’ . . . Say, 5,000, could begin to redeploy and be home to their families and loved ones no later than Christmas of this year. That’s the first step.”

This isn’t some wishy-washy Republican we’re talking about here. Warner is a former Secretary of the Navy and Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. On issues of national security, he’s generally considered pro-military, and, on issues of foreign policy, very conservative.

Losing the support of a man like John Warner is a sign that the Bush Administration’s plans in Iraq are not going well at all.

  • Chepe Noyon

    The strength of a democracy is that, in the long run, the people as a group seldom make disastrous decisions. The change of heart of Senator Warner illustrates one tiny step in this slow process.

    The weakness of democracy is that the people as a group can be fooled some of the time, and stampeded into ill-considered policies.

  • Pingback: Warner Crosses The Aisle?()

  • Smooth Jazz

    I don’t think Sen Warner is giving up at all, no matter how the “MSM” spins his words. He is cleaerly not backing an early pullout.

    On the other, what do you have to say about this Brian baird column:

  • Chepe Noyon

    Smooth Jazz, how do you parse Mr. Warner’s words calling for an “orderly and carefully planned withdrawal,” into the statement that Mr. Warner is not giving up at all? It seems to me that Mr. Warner is clearly calling for a withdrawal. He’s not declaring how fast it should take place, but he is asserting that it should begin by Christmas.

  • TanGeng

    I don’t know about this. 5,000?

    Is that suppose to be some sort of a draw down? Until we get back under pre-surge levels, it can’t even be called decreasing the troop count? It’d still be a mini-surge. I’d call it a a draw down when they decide to cut the number of troops in half. This is just preemptive posturing to set a starting point for debate come September. I hope the Dems have enough of a spine to demand as much. They have to set the starting point for debate as a complete withdrawal by next year.

  • Smooth Jazz


    Fyi, It just goes to show that there is not unaninimity regarding what to do next. When Generals in the war zone speak up, it presents a different perspective on the discussions.

  • Wulf

    John Warner is up for re-election in a state where we just tossed a fairly popular Republican senator (George Allen).

    Also, governor Tim Kaine and former governor Mark Warner – both Democrats – are very popular and could help unseat him. Heck, Mark Warner might even be the one to make that run if things fall into place just so.

    Could this all be so simple as political posturing? That John Warner knows how important it is not to look like a right wing hawk right now? That this is a matter of personal political survival more than anything else?
    Considering that he’s been in the Senate since 1979, I suggest that he’s cagey enough to distance himself from Bush’s unpopular war just enough and at just the right time. Any time you see a statement or action by John Warner, keep in mind that he’s not just a career politician… he’s one of the more successful ones. With someone like that, every move is calculated, and that certainly includes the timing and degree of the statement Doug has linked.

  • rob

    Where did the idea come from that this is a sudden break with Pres. Bush? Warner has been critical of our Iraq policy all along. Granted, he has not been front and center on the debate. He’s been careful not to break openly with the President and he doesn’t do so here. He is merely suggesting that a token withdrawal of troops might send a message to the Iraqi government that it better get its house in order pretty soon or we’re leaving.

    Personally, I don’t think it would work because it isn’t really much of a threat. I don’t believe that Iraqi leaders care if we leave.

    But as for Warner, I don’t see any dramatic change. He has always been critical of Bush but has also always avoided anything that could be regarded as an open break.