Russ Feingold is a United States senator from Wisconsin.
On Election Day, the American people weighed in at the ballot box: They want to get our troops out of Iraq. Voters rejected the president’s failed Iraq policy, putting Democrats in charge of Congress and responsible for setting a new direction for Iraq, and, most importantly, for our national security.
Democrats agree that we should begin redeploying troops, but some do not want to set a target deadline for the majority of troops to be withdrawn. That is a mistake. Without a target date, redeployment could drag on indefinitely. The president consistently refused to set a target date for withdrawal, and Democrats shouldn’t follow in his footsteps. Democrats should move forward with a new Iraq policy that includes a target date for the redeployment of U.S. troops so that we can refocus on defeating global terrorist networks.
On Tuesday, I introduced legislation requiring U.S. forces to redeploy from Iraq by July 1, 2007. My legislation recognizes that a target date for the redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq will help pressure the Iraqis to get their political house in order. Simply announcing when we will begin redeployment, without any end date, is unlikely to put adequate pressure on the Iraqis.
A target date isn’t just critical to our Iraq policy, it is essential for our national security policy. We cannot adequately focus on the pressing national security challenges we face around the globe when so many of our brave troops are in Iraq, and so many billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars are being spent there. A timetable ensures that we can refocus our resources on fighting terrorist networks and on addressing trouble spots around the world that threaten our national security.
Because problems in Iraq won’t dry up overnight, my legislation would allow for a minimal level of U.S. forces to remain in Iraq for targeted counterterrorism activities, training of Iraqi security forces, and the protection of U.S. infrastructure and personnel.
But our current Iraq policy is making the United States weaker, not stronger. The president has continually refused to change our current approach in Iraq, despite a growing number of policymakers and experts, including many Republicans, advocating for a change of course. Voters responded to his failed policies by putting Democrats in control of Congress. They want to change course, and they have given Democrats the chance to finally put our national security policy right by proposing a timetable for redeploying U.S. troops from Iraq.
The president’s policy has us in Iraq with no end in sight. But the Iraqis need an end in sight to get their political house in order, and we need an end in sight so we can get back to fighting terrorist networks. Our disproportionate focus on Iraq has undermined our ability to confront the terrorist threat around the globe. Now Democrats can start to turn these wrong-headed policies around. But we won’t do that by continuing our open-ended commitment of troops on Iraq. And we won’t do it with tepid or muddled policies of our own. We will do it by setting a target date for redeployment, so that we can direct our resources to defeating the terrorist organizations that seek to harm this country.