So, Now that Maliki's Endorsed Obama's Iraq Timetable...

Yes, the legally and ethically correct one.

You make an interesting scenario, Sam, but its a bit too pat.

First off, this whole surge as miracle thing, this Petreaus Ex Machina. You say he “wrote the book” on counterinsurgency, perhaps you mean he wrote a book. And what is so terribly remarkable about a strategy of pacification and garrisoning soldiers to keep it? Trouble with that strategy is manpower, every garrison reduces combat troop numbers. Which is why so many less gifted (yet oddly, higher ranking) generals insisted that we needed a *lot *more troops to accomplish the mission, twice as many or more.

And yet the good General was able to pull this off with a relatively modest raise in troop level. What marvelous mechanism was put in place here? Certainly not an overwhelming rise in numbers, the enemy was not awed into submission by a human wave. In fact, the enemy seems hardly to have resisted, about the only significant battle was between Maliki and al Sadr. And isn’t it a marvelous coincidence that the number of American troops needed for this miracle was *precisely * the number we could scrape together! Boy, lucky break there, huh?

It would appear, therefore, that there is something more here than the previously unrecognized genius of Gen Petreaus. And I think his name is al Sistani.

If al Sistani has brokered an agreement between the Maliki Shia and the Sadr Shia, the civil war is essentially over. And what was the nature of the truce? Getting the Americans out, a strong part of Sadr’s appeal. Maliki has examined the topography of his bread, specifically, the location of his butter. Its on the side of moving to the nationalist center. Its on the side of being a faithful Shia, and submitting to the will of the Wise Old Man, on terms that keep him in power. What’s not to like, for him? Of course, he is an loyal Iraqi, not a puppet, nosirree Bob! And as a loyal Iraqi, he wants foreign troops out. Soon. Well, pretty soon.

So he makes noises about getting the Americans out, but softly, softly. So far it looks as though the Sunni will make the best deal they can and knuckle under, but that could change. If Maliki wants American help in fighting the Sunni, he need only whisper the magic words “Julie Andrews!”, I mean, “Al Queda” and the boatloads of Benjamins will keep flowing in. They want us gone, to be sure, but nobody butchers a cash cow.

Peace may have sprung from the genius of Gen Petreaus. Or, it maybe that the surge simply occurred coincident with the Shia factions cutting a deal. Simply because one thing happens after another, does not mean it happened as a result. Thats that thing about how if your post is in hock, its not property in hock.

I had no idea you recognized Ackerman as an authority. It’s not like most people have even heard of Spencer Ackerman, so I hardly expected you to recognize him as an authoritative voice whose judgment should be yielded to. But I’ll keep it in mind, going forward, that that’s the case.

JFTR, I quoted Ackerman, not as an authority, but because to pass his words off as my own would have been plagiarism. Your characterization of my words is really quite ridiculous.

I notice you don’t even try to explain the strawman part, which I have no clue as to what you’re going on about.

There’s an argument of sorts that we should consider who has the right position going forward, and ignore who made what mistakes in the recent past. (ETA: A weak one, riddled with buckshot, but an argument nonetheless.)

If there’s an argument to be made that we should consider who had the right position on the Surge, but not on the War, I sure don’t see it. All I see there is crazy talk.

More noise from Maliki to shore up his political base at home. What matters is what the entire Iraqi government negotiates with the US, and that’s still being quoted as years away for withdrawal. What they’d love us to do is to take our guys out and leave all the fun toys for them to play with. Ain’t gonna happen-- not with McCain and not with Obama.

Well, yeah: that’s because most Iraqis, um, want us to leave.

So let’s tot up the scorecard: most Americans don’t want to remain in Iraq, and most Iraqis don’t want us to remain in Iraq. Neither of these attitudes is some transitory blip in public opinion, but rather the ongoing sentiments of substantial majorities in both countries.

But there are elections coming, and aside from the Kurds, Maliki’s faction is the one that would most like us to stay. Sunnis and Sadrists are underrepresented in the current government because of boycotts of previous elections, but that’s likely to change.

This is based on what? Does each faction of the Iraqi people that wants us gone, believe that they’ll be the ones to land the toys? It seems more straightforward to believe that most Iraqis just plain simply want us gone.

In another “appeal to authority” (hi, Sam), I’m gonna turn the floor over to Ezra Klein:

I think Ezra’s absolutely right, and this is why it’s suddenly hard to see McCain winning this election. This pretty much kicks the rationale for his campaign out from under him.

Well, that and the prospect of Al Queda siezing control from the lightly armed and compliant Shia majority.

Courtesy of Marc Ambinder (appealing to authority yet again!), there’s this:

A semi-retraction occurs:
Iraq PM Not Endorsing Obama Timeframe on Troop Withdrawal

According to the NYT , Ali al-Dabbagh’s statement came from the U.S. military’s Central Command press office. However, I’m not finding it on Centcom’s website.

Der Spiegel is sticking by it’s translation: Iraqi Leader Stirs up US Campaign, and notes:

There doesn’t seem to be much effective pushback by the white house or McCain yet.

Better to pretend it never happened.

Eh. I don’t expect our politicians to respond everytime Maliki says something. Especially since he seems to be all over the map on this particular subject.

I don’t see that.

  1. Maliki himself hasn’t contradicted himself here.
  2. Neither did his alleged spokesman, on any particulars. It was a perfect non-denial denial, a statement designed to have the appearance of at least a partial retraction, without any of the substance of one.
  3. The spokesman’s statement was released through CENTCOM, rather than through the PM’s office.

Hell, AFAICT we have no evidence that Maliki’s spokesman was speaking for Maliki in this case. Did he say anything that would have necessitated Maliki’s OK in order to be true?

Now the Bush Admin is talking about a “time horizon” for withdrawal.

Funny thing about a horizon: You can walk toward it and walk and walk and it never gets any nearer.

At least we know this time *something * will happen in 6 months, to the day in fact.

The more insane E-mails and crazy things I hear potential voters saying coming out of the USA, the more I think that thing will be the inauguration of John McCain.

As they like to say in the Star Wars movies, I have a bad feeling about this.

Apparently, the Iraqi walkback came about only after pressure from the US embassy:

The pattern appears to be two steps forward, get spanked, take one step back. The actions themselves aren’t startling, but the trend is becoming increasingly clear.

I’m guessing that McCain will eventually claim that the 16 month withdrawal plan was his plan all along. And the press won’t bat an eye, because he is such a “straight talker”, doncha know.

I’m guessing not. Would you like to bet?

A bit more news:

  1. The interpreter was Maliki’s own interpreter.
  2. Der Spiegel gave a copy of the interview tape to the NYT, whose independent translation confirmed the substance of the Spiegel article.
    And, of course:
  3. The walkback was the White House’s idea from the get-go.

There is enough noise here for McCain to plausibly pitch an argument along these lines: “I have always been in favor of a sensible withdrawl when conditions favor it. Now they do, for instance, [statistic]. Given the success of the surge, my experience tells me that we are safe to explore the idea of a draw-down.”

I agree that the press might fan itself a bit, my my, but such a statement would be in line with the narrative on McCain. I don’t think Iraq is the killer issue that democrats want it to be, and it seems to be getting less so by the week. Fortunately, yes, that does knock out one leg of the two-legged table that McCain is running on, but Obama will be less able to hammer McCain on Iraq policy- “My opponent has walked toward me on this issue” is much less damaging than “my opponent stubbornly refuses to see sense on this issue”.