The ground troops must come out. Now. For the good of Iraq. For the good of America.
Good thing consistency is but the hobgoblin of little minds...here's Cole not even a month ago:
Personally, I think "US out now" as a simple mantra neglects to consider the full range of possible disasters that could ensue. For one thing, there would be an Iraq civil war. Iraq wasn't having a civil war in 2002. And although you could argue that what is going on now is a subterranean, unconventional civil war, it is not characterized by set piece battles and hundreds of people killed in a single battle, as was true in Lebanon in 1975-76, e.g. People often allege that the US military isn't doing any good in Iraq and there is already a civil war. These people have never actually seen a civil war and do not appreciate the lid the US military is keeping on what could be a volcano.
The first time I read Cole's ten point plan, I immediately suspected it was little more than a thinly veiled plan to exit Iraq asap. And that's exactly what it was, wasn't it? I mean, how could you seriously take an Iraq policy prescription that recommended all U.S. personnel vacating the major cities of Iraq under current conditions? What was this meant to achieve, handing over the streets of Baghdad and Mosul to the insurgency? Or the militias?
Cole (in last's months incarnation of an exit strategy):
1) US ground troops should be withdrawn ASAP from urban areas as a first step. Iraqi police will just have to do the policing. We are no good at it. If local militias take over, that is the Iraqi government's problem. The prime minister will have to either compromise with the militia leaders or send in other Iraqi militias to take them on. Who runs Iraqi cities can no longer be a primary concern of the US military. Our troops are warriors, not traffic cops.
2) In the second phase of withdrawal, most US ground troops would steadily be brought out of Iraq.
Well, now not even a month on, Cole has ingloriously dispensed with the fiction that he was in favor of some phased withdrawal (which, with his suggestion to start with the so critical cities, was the height of recklessness to begin with). We're now at, put simply, get the hell out asap! How can a knowledgeable regional expert like Cole not more seriously reckon with the impact such a hugely precipitous withdrawal would have in terms of destabilizing the region? Just a month ago, he was at least pretending to grapple with that reality. But no more...