Course Unclear for Politicians and Military

"Stay the course" may have been swept away in last week's election, but that may not mean American soldiers will be heading home soon from Iraq.

And senior military leaders paint an ugly and deadly picture of a quick withdrawal.

Former Army general and ABC News consultant William Nash says a precipitous withdrawal could lead to a bloody increase in sectarian violence and new attacks on American forces preparing to leave.

"To assume people will throw flowers and fruit at departing forces is as ludicrous as thinking they would throw flowers and fruit when we arrived." Nash said. "Killing Americans is a goal unto itself in Iraq."

A leader in the call for a "change of course," Sen. Carl Levin has called for a "phased withdrawal" to start in the next four months to six months.

He says that the president's assertion that America is "winning" and that it is "full speed ahead" in Iraq are preposterous.

Levin, who will chair the Armed Services Committee in the next Congress, said, "We're getting deeper and deeper into a hole that we should stop digging and that we should look for alternatives in order to promote the chances of success in Iraq."

But Levin is not saying bring the troops home. He wants to "redeploy" soldiers in surrounding countries such as Kuwait, sending a message to the Iraqi government that America's presence is not open ended.

"We cannot save the Iraqis from themselves," said Levin, a Democrat.

How many troops might be pulled out is unclear. So far, Democrats only have 50 votes for the "phased redeployment" proposal, and they are making it clear this is not a withdrawal.

Sen. Harry Reid, who will be the next majority leader, asked and answered his own question about redeployment. "Does that mean pull everybody out now? Course it doesn't," he said.

While senior U.S. military leaders are not calling for additional troops in Iraq, they say a redeployment/withdrawal could be disastrous.

The Iraqi army, while improving, is not at full force.

The police force is infiltrated by Shiite militiamen. A U.S. Army officer training Iraqi police admits that 70 percent are only "partially capable" of doing their job.

U.S. forces are dampening some of the violence, which may be hard to believe with upwards of 50 bodies to 100 bodies being discovered each day.

But, some military leaders say those numbers could be a drop in the bucket if American forces left.

All out civil war could result in tens of thousands of additional Iraqi deaths.

"There will be no moderating influence," said Nash who believes there is a danger of American politicians falling for a fallacy that there is a simple solution in Iraq.

It all comes down to the entity the Democrats are trying to motivate: the Iraqi government.

How will that government act if America starts pulling troops out? Will it be the unity government the United States envisioned, cracking down on all violence?

Or, will it be the sectarian government it seems to be: a Shiite majority dominated government that often turns a blind eye to Shiite death squads and militias.

As Levin put it this week: "Do they want a civil war or do they want a nation?"

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