Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 7, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

WITHDRAWAL....Does the Iraqi government want us to set a timeline for withdrawal?

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki raised the prospect on Monday of setting a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops as part of negotiations over a new security agreement with Washington.

.... In a statement, Maliki's office said the prime minister made the comments about the security pact — which will replace a U.N. mandate for the presence of U.S. troops that expires on December 31 — to Arab ambassadors in the United Arab Emirates.

"In all cases, the basis for any agreement will be respect for the full sovereignty of Iraq," the statement quoted Maliki as saying. "The current trend is to reach an agreement on a memorandum of understanding either for the departure of the forces or a memorandum of understanding to put a timetable on their withdrawal."

Atrios says pithily that this just ain't gonna happen, and I'm inclined to agree. Which is odd, in a way, since both sides in the SOFA negotiations might benefit from it.

On the Iraqi side, Maliki is plainly under pressure from the Sadrites and others to make it clear that American troops won't be hanging around forever. Public sentiment on this point is fairly strong, if a bit fuzzy, and Maliki would be politically well served by an agreement that sets some kind of credible timeline for withdrawal. This is especially true since Maliki seems to be increasingly convinced that the Iraqi army is pretty hot stuff and maybe doesn't need much American support going forward anyway.

On the U.S. side, there's Barack Obama waiting in the wings. He says he's going to start drawing down troops immediately and finish the withdrawal within 16 months, and even the famously out-to-lunch George Bush must be at least considering the strong possibility that Obama is going to win in November and then do what he says he's going to do. So what's the best strategy for both sides here?

Answer: a "timeline" for withdrawal, but one that's slower and more flexible than the one they think Obama will impose. Say 36 months, with conditions and caveats. Then, when January rolls around and Obama takes office, he has to decide: is it worth a political donnybrook not to impose a withdrawal plan where none currently exists, but merely to speed up a withdrawal plan that's already in place?

Maybe not. Both Bush and Maliki, therefore, might be shrewd to negotiate a withdrawal plan of their own: Maliki for electoral reasons and Bush in order to get the best deal he probably can under the circumstances. I wouldn't say this is a likely scenario or anything, but it's a possible one. It only works, however, if Obama remains firm on his own withdrawal plan. Otherwise, what's the point?

Kevin Drum 11:18 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (21)

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Hell, it looks like McCain would be advised to withdraw even faster so he can have tons of "savings" to pay down the deficit:

“The McCain administration would reserve all savings from victory in the Iraq and Afghanistan operations in the fight against Islamic extremists for reducing the deficit. Since all their costs were financed with deficit spending, all their savings must go to deficit reduction.”

via Politico

Is this man a genius or what?

Posted by: lobbygow on July 7, 2008 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Take a look at this link and see if McCain hasn't another big worry about being perceived as an economic elitist and adventurer, no matter what he says about Iraq! Obama may or may not have a similar violation, but obviously smaller in scope. The Christian right won't like this either.
http://dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/7/7/75815/89579/715/547458

Posted by: enough3 on July 7, 2008 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Take a look at this link and see if McCain hasn't another big worry about being perceived as an economic elitist and adventurer, no matter what he says about Iraq! Obama may or may not have a similar violation, but obviously smaller in scope. The Christian right won't like this either.
http://dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/7/7/75815/89579/715/547458

Posted by: enough3 on July 7, 2008 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

bush doesn't believe in the best deal he can get: he believes in not negotiating against himself....

Posted by: howard on July 7, 2008 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

It would be a way for Bush to claim victory in the name of the Republicans. He might also be able to get a better deal for the oil companies, than would be likely under an Obama withdrawal plan. But, doing the sensible thing would be out of character.

Posted by: bigTom on July 7, 2008 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with Atrios -- Na ga Ha Pen. Why? Because everything Bush does (especially the "Surge" is about avoiding responsibility for what he's done -- about pushing the whole mess on the next guy, so when he spends the next 30 years attending Republican celebrity golf tournaments he can claim he "stayed the course" and "didn't waver" and everything will get blamed on Obama.

Posted by: drprocter on July 7, 2008 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

Bush doesn't compromise--he screws.

Posted by: reino on July 7, 2008 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

"Does the Iraqi government want us to set a timeline for withdrawal?"

Iraqi government? What is that, like a focus group?

Posted by: George W. Bush on July 7, 2008 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

George W. Bush: Iraqi government? What is that, like a focus group?

No, if they could focus, they'd have driven us out long ago.

Posted by: anandine on July 7, 2008 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Considering Obama's plan already has "conditions and caveats" anyway, "a difference that makes no difference is no difference."

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on July 7, 2008 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: mhr on July 7, 2008 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, where have you been the past five years? The Bush administration position, as well as that of their allied pundits and the McCain campaign, is a simple one: if one American soldier ever leaves Iraq prior to it being a flourishing Western-style democracy with the flags of Exxon-Mobil and Wal-Mart flying next to, and possibly above, the Iraqi flag in front of their Parliament, we lose. Therefore, we can never leave. By contrast, Obama wishes that someday soon we would have no substantial military presence left in Iraq and is therefore a wussy terrorist appeaser.

Posted by: jonas on July 7, 2008 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, Bush could look objectively at the situation in Iraq and the likely election scenarios and do the rational thing.

Alternatively, Bush / Cheney could launch a preemptive strike on Iran in October and ensure that withdraw from Iraq won't happen as the Middle East goes up in flames.

Hmmmm. Which one is more likely?

Posted by: Tentakles on July 7, 2008 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

The permanent bases are not negotiable as long as Bush or McClone are in office. Bush/Cheney see the Middle East from the perspective of Israel/Christian Zionism/neocon/control freak Iran-paranoia isolated bubble psychosis.

Posted by: Luther on July 7, 2008 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

I do not understand what is hard about this. The policy goal in Iraq is permanent occupation in military bases with about 50,000 troops, supporting a government that will protect the oil exploration and extraction rights for American companies. There is no compromise involving democracy or withdrawals available that attains that policy goal. A win by the Sadrists will be characterized as illegitimate, and Maliki will be kept in power.

The idea that there will ever be a democratic, sovereign government in Iraq is a fraud, cover for imperialism, until the US, unilaterally, decides to leave.

The US will tolerate this kind of talk from Maliki, but will make no agreement to withdraw, under this president. (And I have my doubts about Obama. What happens in the House may determine what he does.)

Posted by: jayackroyd on July 7, 2008 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

The weekend did you good Kevin, I thought this analysis insightful. Thanks.

Posted by: jerry on July 7, 2008 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK
Answer: a "timeline" for withdrawal, but one that's slower and more flexible than the one they think Obama will impose.

Slower, sure, but only "more flexible" in the "more easy to extend" sense.

Posted by: cmdicely on July 7, 2008 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

"restoring full sovereignty"? Iraq's been sovereign since June 28, 2004. Remember, "Let freedom reign!" President Bush said "governing authority will be transferred to a fully sovereign interim government." And President Bush knows about sovereignty.

Posted by: croatoan on July 7, 2008 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

Why would they agree to a withdrawal? That's like agreeing to lose.

If you're down by 36 points in a basketball match with a minute to go, you don't negotiate with the other team to finish the game down by 18. That's still losing. You keep going 100% until the clock runs out.

No SOFA is a loss. It doesn't matter if its in 36 months or 18. I really don't understand why an otherwise intelligent blogger still doesn't seem to understand what BushCo were trying to get in Iraq.

Posted by: swio on July 8, 2008 at 6:43 AM | PERMALINK

This narcicistic American perspective is most troubling. Iraq was Iraq without US invasion so we made chaos, not democracy with the crooked "entrepreneurs" Bush sent there as supposed rebuilders. SINCE US invasion 1.5 MILLION Iraqis died and 4.5 MILLION are refugees, the best and brightest permanently settled abroad. No one in the region can forget the colonial drive for oil so the whole region, Arab and Persian, is supporting fighters against the occupation. Iraq wants the US out so it can negotiate development on its own terms to best suit its own interests, not as a captive occupied nation with the corporate friends of the invader. Americans would do well to end their bull in a chinashop invasions excused by 9/11, but when confronted with a vengeful readiness to die just to kill us, cries about "terrorism" and its intent misunderstood. America is led, not by the stereotype football hero type but by a he/she cheerleader, too puny in body and mind to be a hero. So he compensates pretending that he's the "decider" and constantly refering to himself as "Commander-and-Chief" of the world's best army. Alas, most Americans have adapted to it so much that they have accepted his incredibly queer rhetoric and that of the neocons who think they will be seen as "mensch" by the Israeli mensch if they start World War IV.

It's time to realize that at the price of killing an insurgent in Iraq and Afghanistan, given our utterly incompetent military, we will go broke before the insurgency runs out of people, becoming ever more skilled with experience at dying while killing us.

Effete narcicism in the White House and Congress is costing the lives of our most manly men and we are now arming criminals and psychos to make up the exhaustion of heroes. Latin gangs in LA are ordering their members to join the Marines and figth in Iraq for training. What will it take for our fat bravado boomers overdosed on Viagra to realize that we just can't rape the world and get away with it? Maliki is giving us a peaceful chance to get out. If we don't take it we will lose in BOTH Iraq and Afghanistan. Our men's blood is not worth filling-er-up our SUVs cheap oil or giving old fart neocons the illusion of manhood.

Posted by: DE Teodoru on July 11, 2008 at 12:38 AM | PERMALINK

D2gonA

Posted by: Wefjuznr on July 13, 2009 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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