Via Atrios, a reader actually got The Washington Post's Shailagh Murray to offer a definition of "precipitous withdrawal," perhaps the Beltway's most pernicious meaningless term. She came up with:
Precipitous in this case would be more quickly than military leaders believe is sensible, based on their mission and the situation on the ground. Believe it or not, a lot of Democrats are concerned about withdrawing too many troops too quickly. You can be against the war, but also against mucking it up.
Obviously, though, "military leaders" disagree. The Joint Chiefs didn't like the surge plan when Bush floated it. And this big multi-byline Washington Post feature on the surge leads with General Petraeus fighting with Admiral Fallon, his commanding officer, over surge-related issues. Part of the Petraeus/Fallon debate involved the CENTCOM CINC wanting more troops to be available for contingencies outside of Iraq. Part of the Joint Chiefs' objection to the surge was its massively deleterious impact on long-term military preparedness.
Which is to say that military leaders disagree in part because people are just bound to disagree. But they disagree in part because they have different perspectives and different priorities. Ultimately, it's the job of political leaders -- of the president and the congress -- to make these kind of decisions about priorities. It's up to them to set national policy, to decide where the nation's interests lie, and to ultimately decide what to do. Politicians should, obviously, listen to what officers have to say, but the fact that some particular commander wants to have more resources dedicated to his particular mission doesn't have a great deal of probative value.
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