Senior Democrats are coalescing behind the view that America should begin withdrawing from Iraq by early 2008, the heart of the next presidential campaign season. (...) The position emerging among the ascendant congressional majority effectively sets a political deadline for the war in Iraq. Until now, the White House has attacked Democratic attempts — such as a plan from Rep. John Murtha, a Democrat of Pennsylvania — to set a deadline for withdrawal. Such a timetable, the White House and its supporters argue, gives the terrorists an advantage because they can wait out the coalition forces. (...)The Democrat's position is a logical result of the war's impopularity in general and especially with the revived left wing of the party. But it is also in contradiction of the terms on the ground: the need for US troops, whether in stabilization or training is pretty obvious.
Despite expressing the view that America should prepare for a withdrawal, Democratic lawmakers have not yet said they will use the power of the purse to bend the president to their wishes. Mr. Reid stressed yesterday that he did not think the troop push would make much of a difference, but he added, "We are going to do everything we can to make sure our troops get everything they need." The one area that Mr. Reid said Democrats would use their influence in the budget process is in the use of contractors in Iraq, which he said number nearly 100,000. "We are not going to continually fund these contractors," he said.
Moreover, whatever one feels about the presence of private contractors in Iraq (and their cost, accountability and role) the impression that they must be counted as part of the overall number of stabilizing units, including coalition forces and Iraqi security forces is unavoidable. Cutting funding abruptly for swift domestic political gains may cause more damage than imaginable up front.