Peter Beinart’s stretch

In this Washington Post op-ed, Peter Beinart of The New Republic argues that President Bush is really the candidate of “retreat and defeat” with respect to Iraq. Beinart reasons that Bush is committed to honoring the wishes of the leaders elected by Iraqis and that, since Iraqis will certainly elect a candidates who wants the U.S. out, we will be more or less ordered to leave.
Beinart’s piece starts out as if he is describing a possible scenario (“quick elections could produce an abrupt change of American course”). By the end, though, Beinart seems certain that Bush will retreat (“it is Bush, not Kerry, who is laying the groundwork for America’s withdrawal from Iraq” and “so much for Bush’s pledge to Allewi”). Somewhere along the way, Beinart managed to convince himself that Bush is deceiving the American people and his Iraqi ally. I doubt it was a hard sell.
The rest of us should be more skeptical. First, it was Colin Powell, not George Bush, who said “we would leave” if a sovereign Iraqi government requested it. Beinart also quotes Donald Rumsfeld, but Rumsfeld said only that “any implication that [Iraq] has to be peaceful and perfect before we can reduce coalition and U.S. forces I think would obviously be unwise.” That’s hardly a promise to abandon Iraq any time soon. Second, Beinart is assuming that an elected interim Iraqi government will “order” the U.S. out before we have put down the insurgency. That’s not a very good career move. The winning candidates may campaign on a “U.S. out” platform, but we haven’t yet transformed Iraq to the point that its politicians can be expected to keep campaign promises that aren’t in their interests.

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